Police Investigate 'Swatting' Phone Pranks

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A phenomenon where pranksters call in phony emergencies that elicit a strong police response is being used by video gamers in a twisted competition where their success is based on the level of that response, according to a suburban New York police commissioner.

The phenomenon is known as "swatting."

More than 60 heavily armed officers were dispatched to a home in Long Beach, N.Y., an oceanfront community outside New York City, on what turned out to be a hoax. A caller using Skype contacted the Long Beach police on Tuesday afternoon, claiming that he had just killed his mother and brother and was threatening to fire upon first responders who were sent to the home.

Michael Tangney, commissioner of the Long Beach, N.Y., police department said the caller, who has yet to be identified, apparently became upset after losing a video game called Call of Duty to a teenager living in the Long Beach house. Officers in SWAT gear surrounded the house and eventually went inside, where they found the teenager wearing headphones, apparently oblivious to the dragnet that had surrounded his home.

The teen's mother and brother were found unharmed.

Police around the country have been investigating "swatting" incidents for several years. The phenomenon also has involved several high-profile incidents where SWAT teams were dispatched to the homes of celebrities including Tom Cruise, Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher.

Long Beach police Lt. Mark Stark discusses "swatting" with Here & Now's Robin Young.


  • Mark Stark, police lieutenant in the Long Beach, N.Y., police department.

This segment aired on April 29, 2014.


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