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KRYSTLE CLEAR: Kids These Days

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Let me start things off by saying I know this is a serious topic, but it’s just one of those things that after I heard the whole story, I just found myself going “really?!”

If you haven’t heard, on Friday, Ames Police Department dealt with a series of prank 911 calls. Using services designed for the hearing impaired, somebody reported two alleged break ins and shootings, and one hostage situation at three separate locations. It basically had police on a wild goose chase around the city for about an hour. And since the allegations were pretty serious and they couldn’t risk that, they dispatched almost all of their officers and used a lot of resources.

Of course I applaud the police for treating it like a real emergency, because you just never know, and for following up and working hard to catch the person responsible. That person, by the way, they think made the calls from New Jersey. While that was unusual in itself, what surprised me most about this situation, is that apparently, it’s not that unusual.

Officers told me today that police stations all across the country deal with this type of thing, and it’s often done by kids. It’s called “swatting.” “Swatting” is an attempt to trick any emergency service into dispatching any emergency response based on a false reporting of an incident. Those incidents can range in size and severity.The name ‘swatting’, comes from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), which is a team that often reports to such situations.

I just couldn’t wrap my head around why somebody would want to do that. When I asked what the possible motive could be, the investigating commander in this case said, “I think they were just trying to have some fun. It’s a prank phone call.” He said usually it happens in the same city the caller is from, so they can watch the response. But now with technology, there are websites you can go to to listen to scanners from police radios from all over the country, so the caller can hear the response no matter where he or she is. 

How is that fun?

I remember way back when at our girls slumber parties, we’d sometimes get really daring and make prank calls– to our parents or friends. And they consisted of things like “is your refrigerator running? Well you better go catch it!” (no joke, we thought that was hilarious.) But now, THIS is the idea of a practical joke? How is using up a city’s resources and putting people in danger (what if a real emergency happened when police were out dealing with this prank?) an idea of a good time? It NEVER would have crossed our minds as kids. We had it instilled in us that 911 was for emergencies only, it was NOT a joke. So now I wonder, is this a change in the times? Is it just “what the world is coming to?” Or am I just noticing it more now that I am an older?

Luckily, this game of “swatting” has some very serious consequences, including possible criminal charges. But unfortunately it’s not always easy to catch the person responsible, especially when they don’t live in the state. First of the calls can be from anywhere, and once (and if) police figure that out, they often have to deal with jurisdiction issues, and issues with state lines. I personally hope the person responsible for the incidents in Ames gets caught- if nothing else than to prove that serious actions like that have serious consequences.

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