“Swatting” crime may be more common than people think

It can be frustrating when someone messes up in an online game and causes the team to lose. The same can be said when people get into an Internet argument or when real-life bullying crosses over onto social media. For whatever reason, the Internet is not always a peaceful place. There are some people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere who might be tempted to take a dispute a step further and play a seemingly harmless prank on someone they do not like.

One of these is something called “swatting.” The New York Times defines swatting as a prank in which someone calls authorities to report a crime or other false information, for the purpose of luring police or swat teams to an unsuspecting person’s residence or workplace. There can be some confusion and fear while the target, who is innocent of the alleged wrongdoing, finds himself or herself surrounded by armed law enforcement. The incident is usually cleared up quickly once law enforcement realizes the swatting target has done nothing wrong, which may be why many pranksters believe they are committing a harmless ruse.

However, swatting is anything but harmless, as a recent incident illustrated. According to CNN, police killed a Wichita, Kansas, swatting victim last month, after a man from Los Angeles, California, reported to authorities that the victim had murdered his father and was holding his family hostage. When the man opened his door, one of his movements was mistaken as reaching for a weapon, and he was shot. Reportedly, someone asked the Los Angeles man to call in the swatting prank after an online argument over a game, although it was later determined the victim was not involved in a gaming dispute. The Los Angeles man is now facing felony charges for making a false call to authorities.

It is important to think about one’s actions before doing something that may result in a criminal charge, no matter how harmless it may seem at the time.