The establishment of a nationwide database by the FBI aims to monitor and deter the act of ‘swatting’

FBI aims to monitor and deter the act of 'swatting'

Patrick Tomlinson, an author, and his wife, Niki Robinson, who owns a business, have been victims of “swatting” incidents more than 40 times at their Milwaukee home. In these instances, individuals made fraudulent 911 calls, leading to armed police confrontations and even false bomb threats using their names in different states. Despite the severity of these incidents, law enforcement has been unable to put a stop to the harassment.

Such occurrences of “swatting” seem to be increasing in the United States, particularly on college campuses. In April of a particular year, numerous universities, including Clemson, Florida, Boston, Harvard, Cornell, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Oklahoma, and Middlebury College, experienced swatting incidents.

To tackle the growing problem, the FBI has initiated a formal effort to gather comprehensive data on a national level. Chief Scott Schubert, based at the bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services headquarters in Clarksburg, West Virginia, mentioned that the agency has set up a national online database. This database facilitates the sharing of information about swatting incidents among hundreds of police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country.

Swatting involves making fraudulent emergency calls to report serious criminal threats, such as bomb threats, hostages, or killings, with the intention of misleading the police into raiding the home or business of someone who is innocent. This dangerous practice has, in some cases, resulted in fatalities, but fortunately, such incidents are rare, thanks to the training of SWAT teams.

Swatting incidents are difficult to track since there is no central agency responsible for monitoring them. An estimated 1,000 swatting incidents occurred annually in the U.S. by 2019, costing affected communities at least $10,000 per incident, not including expenses for investigations, property repairs, and counseling.

The increasing use of technology, such as voice and number spoofing, has made swatting easier for the perpetrators. The new FBI database aims to provide a comprehensive overview of swatting incidents across the country, allowing the agency to address the issue more effectively.

Patrick Tomlinson’s ordeal began after he made a casual remark about a comedian on Twitter, attracting online trolls who subsequently subjected him and his wife to relentless harassment, stalking, and impersonation on various social media platforms. They have been swatted numerous times, causing distress and fear, not only for themselves but also for Tomlinson’s elderly parents who experienced a swatting incident at their home.

Despite the seriousness of swatting incidents, the lack of specific laws criminalizing swatting in the U.S. hinders law enforcement efforts. Prosecutors often use existing statutes related to false information and hoaxes, interstate threats, or communications to address swatting cases. Perpetrators often receive lenient punishments compared to the severe consequences suffered by their victims.

While the FBI has formed a national database to address the issue, the specific case of Patrick Tomlinson and Niki Robinson has seen limited progress. The couple has filed complaints with the FBI and other authorities, but there has been minimal communication or action from the agency in response to their case.

In conclusion, swatting is a dangerous and increasingly prevalent form of harassment, and the FBI’s new database aims to provide a better understanding of the problem across the country. However, the lack of specific legislation and resources dedicated to combating swatting has hindered law enforcement’s ability to effectively address and prevent such incidents.