Anonymous tipsters giving false information about emergencies to police departments – who respond by sending out SWAT teams – has become increasingly popular, to the chagrin of law enforcement.
Michigan now has a law on the books to increase penalties for "swatting."
The swatting pranks cost governments a lot of money, state Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) said in a press release. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a Heise-sponsored anti-swatting bill into law Tuesday.
Swatting is a new crime in which people use the Internet to report a non-existent crime in progress. Typically, tipsters use the Internet to make false emergency phone calls to 911 centers, in the hopes of getting a SWAT team or other first responders to show up at a person's address, according to the press release.
"Not only do these actions cost thousands of taxpayer dollars, they jeopardize lives," Heise said. "By reporting a bogus situation, they are endangering our first responders who believe they are entering an extremely threatening situation, and tying up resources that might be needed somewhere else."
Under the new law, if anyone is injured in the course of responding to a fake call, the caller could be charged with a five to 10-year felony. If someone is killed during a swatting incident, they could be charged with a 15-year felony, according to the press release.
Swatting has gained popularity because of a recent rash of celebrity incidents, in which targets included pop singer Justin Bieber and actor Ashton Kutcher.