17 April 2015

New Jersey Lawmaker Proposes Upping Penalties for Swatting ……… Is Promptly Swatted

This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it.
No, I am not kidding here.

It just happened to State Assemblyman Paul Moriarty:
A New Jersey lawmaker who is pushing legislation to combat the trend of swatting — a prank in which anonymous callers phone-in false emergency reports to provoke a large police response — was a victim of the practice himself this weekend.

State Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester) said he was watching the Masters golf tournament and doing his taxes at home on Saturday afternoon in Washington Township when he got a call from the police.

"The person on the phone says they were calling from police dispatch and wanted to know if everything is OK at my house," Moriarty said. "I said 'Yeah, why? They said 'we have a report of a shooting at your home.'"

The dispatcher then asked Moriarty to describe what he was wearing and step outside.

"I look out my front door. There's six cop cars. They have the street closed off. They have helmets, flak jackets and rifles," Moriarty said. "I walk out and walk towards them. They motion me to keep walking towards them. The minute I walked out the door, I was still on the phone with the dispatch person, I said 'I think I've just been swatted.' It just then occurred to me what happened."


Swatting has its roots in online video game culture. Callers anonymously phone in emergencies to authorities to send them to an unsuspecting gamer's house — often while the gamer is streaming video of himself playing online.


Moriarty's bill (A3877), introduced in November, would increase penalties for "false public alarm," upgrading the crime from third degree to second degree, punishable by five to ten year in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.

"I'm thinking someone read about the bill and some sick, evil person thought it would be funny to send the police to my house on one of these false reports," Moriarty said.

Moriarty is the former mayor of Washington Township and said he knew most of the police at the scene, including the chief. It turned out the department had dealt with at least one similar call in the previous 24 hours, Moriarty said.

"If this is a practical joke, it's not funny because someone is going to get seriously hurt or perhaps killed in one of these engagements that can go very, very wrong," Moriarty said. "It's never fun to walk out your front door and have shotguns aimed at your house."

Moriarty said it could have gone a lot worse because while doing his taxes he "wasn't in a good mood to begin with."

"If the phone wasn't ringing next to me, I might not have answered it. ... And had I not, they probably would have beat down the front door," he said.
I will note that what Moriarty has proposed is a half measure.

The real problem here is that local law enforcement has become increasingly militarized, and so they tend to respond to this excessively.

Additionally, if "false alarm" gets upgraded, you can be sure that prosecutors will go Aaron Swartz on defendants with this law, in an attempt to extort guilty pleas.

Any time you ad a tool like this to a DA's arsenal, you can be sure that it will be abused in ways that were never intended.


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