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Police are dealing with serious new threats: hoaxes.
Last week, police in Los Angeles raced up the Hollywood Hills after a 9-1-1 call saying two armed men were storming into the home of actor Russell Brand.
"... at the end, you have a story to tell, but you also have to go through 10 hours of being miserable."Drew Magary, journalist
Authorities approached the house with guns drawn, and frightened the housekeeper taking out the garbage. But the call was a hoax - part of what police are calling an epidemic of "swatting."
With swatting, people call in descriptive but false reports of violence at the homes of celebrities, to get police to set up a swat operation.
Then there was the case in New York recently - a kidnapping that shocked the city.
A couple walking down the street in Washington Heights were forced into a minivan at gunpoint at seven at night - still daylight.
Witnesses heard a woman scream and called 9-1-1.
Parts of the kidnapping were caught on surveillance cameras (see video below). Police investigated and discovered it was fake - part of a birthday party surprise.
Who would pay to be kidnapped? Apparently, a lot of people.
There is actually a Detroit-based business called Extreme Kidnapping that charges $500 and up for a fake abduction.
GQ correspondent Drew Magary called them up to try it out for a piece he was writing.
"In over 10 years of doing this, we’ve only had 2 incidents with the police."Adam Thick, owner, Extreme Kidnapping
“I honestly don’t think the market for this is huge," Magary told Here & Now's Robin Young about the experience. "At the end, you have a story to tell, but you also have to go through 10 hours of being miserable. I don’t see the market for that being all that enormous.”
Magary's GQ piece about his experience is, "Kidnapped (Just Kidding!)."
Extreme Kidnapping owner Adam Thick provided this response by email:
His adventure was what it was, if he didn't like it, he should talk to his boss who selected his particular kidnapping scenario. Not everyone walks away miserable, in fact, very few do. He has to remember he was assigned to do this, it was his job to experience it...he's not our typical client who does this because they want to, not because they had to.
In response to concerns about safety, he wrote:
The police, and various sheriffs around the metro area have been asked and they don't really like it. They see the potential for problems. They are concerned that a on-duty or off-duty officer might see it and intervene, or that resources will be used to investigate after the fact. In over 10 years of doing this, we've only had 2 incidents with the police. Both were resolved, nobody got hurt, and we walked away without charges or injuries. We take our clients' safety very seriously, in fact, its our #1 priority. We are not haphazardly doing things without thought, everything is carefully planned and executed.
I find it amusing that everyone is so concerned about our clients safety, yet nobody thinks twice anymore about hurling themselves out of a plane, off a tall building, or swimming with sharks or any of the other myriad activities that can end your life with but one mistake...if anything, our adventures are far safer and you are far more likely to "survive" than any of that other stuff....we haven't lost anyone yet, and we don't intend to.
- New York Times: ‘Swatting’ Hoax Tests the Police and Stars Alike
- New York Daily News: ‘Extreme kidnapping’ the latest thrill for adrenaline junkies
- Drew Magary, correspondent for GQ and author of several books including the about -to-be-released, "Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First Century Parenthood." He tweets @drewmagary.
This segment aired on April 15, 2013.
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