School 'swatting' prank costs taxpayers thousands

'Swatting' prank costs taxpayers thousands

HAMILTON COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - An anonymous threat is called in.  A school is fully evacuated.

Police show up to investigate only to find the threat wasn't real. It's called swatting -- a disturbing trend in Ohio that the federal government is investigating.

These swatting calls are costing taxpayers thousands and robbing parents' piece of mind.

Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Kenton County schools are among those that received bomb threats in recent weeks.

The callers are anonymous and often a computer-generated voice.

Law enforcement and school officials say they have to take all threats seriously. Schools evacuate while fire responders mobilize.

"Special units, bomb squad, bomb dog, detectives and then swat if needed," said Butler County Regional SWAT Team Lt. Morgan Dallman.

Lt. Dallman estimates each call can cost several thousand dollars in wasted resources and manpower.

"It's taking time away from calls that law enforcement could be taking with the public," Lt. Dallman said. "The financial costs are very real to us."

Swatting is a cyber hoax that began in the online gaming world.

A rival gamer calls 9-1-1 to report a fake emergency to prompt a police response, usually a SWAT team.

Watch as this gamer in Denver, who was playing live on the Internet, becomes a swatting victim.

In the video, SWAT arrives and forces him to the ground.

The FBI says these calls, and the bomb threats in our area, are extremely difficult to trace. Callers use smart or Internet-based phones to "spoof" the location.

The Ohio Department of Homeland Security is now investigating who's behind the multiple bomb threats. The department recently sent out an alert to local schools to be on guard for more possible swatting calls.

Lakota Local Schools said their priority is always the safety of students and staff, but it can come at a steep price.

"When you're talking about buses having to come out when they're not scheduled to come out and food going wasted," said Lauren Boettcher, with Lakota Local Schools.

Not to mention the procedures result in a loss of class time.

While the prankster's motive remains a mystery. What's clear is that the swatting impact is no joke.

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