Police, expert: swatting incidents could hold serious consequences
WESTFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Westfield Police are searching for the person who called 911 and said they planted a bomb, which turned out to be a swatting incident.
On Friday night, multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Massachusetts State Police bomb squad, responded to the area of downtown Westfield after a phone call was made to police from a person who claimed to have planted a bomb and was then standing on top of a building with a rifle
After searching the area, police determined it was a hoax.
“We were able to shut it down probably within the hour,” said Westfield Police Capt. Steve Dickinson.
Police believe the person who called was a man who disguised his voice. This type of incident is known as swatting, which is when someone calls in a threat, prompting a large emergency response, when really there was no danger at all.
These types of calls are becoming increasingly more common across the nation and even locally, with three of these phone calls in the past couple years.
“Because it’s something that’s popularized on the internet. Whenever people do it, they tend to draw attention to it,” said Creaig Dunton, associate professor of criminal justice at Western New England University.
Dunton told tells us that although the person making the call may think it’s just a prank, the charges that may follow are no joke.
“It can be really severe because it violates federal law…Basically, around issues of conspiracy and hoaxing, local laws as well.”
In addition, police have to respond accordingly, which means multiple departments and lots of overtime.
“We had several units in on overtime. We had to divert traffic, so a lot of people were inconvenienced. People at Stop and Shop, The Tavern, local businesses downtown had to remain in place until we could figure out what was happening. The [Mass. State Police] Airwing came over. People coming in to operate the drone, it’s costly,” Dickinson explained.
If the call was never serious, that person could be stuck picking up the bill.
“Potentially, the person who made the call could be on the hook for misusing all those services,” Dunton added.
Westfield Police are now working to trace where the call originated.
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