SACRANENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, Calif. Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Los Angeles) legislation to criminalize the dangerous and increasingly prevalent crime known as “swatting” cleared a major legislative hurdle; passing the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a unanimous vote of 7-0.
Swatting is a perilous prank by anonymous mischief-makers who alert police to a bogus crime situation, prompting a tactical response — sometimes by special weapons and tactics (SWAT) officers — that then involves a high-risk search for phantom assailants. AB 47 is the legislature’s most comprehensive legislation to address the issue, and the only pending bill to increase criminal penalties for swatting.
AB 47 would increase the criminal fines and penalties for anyone who makes a call to 911 resulting in the deployment of police personnel when no emergency exists. Under the provisions of the bill, anyone who makes such a call would be subject to a $2,000 fine and a year in jail, and significantly increased fine and jail time if the call results in bodily harm. Finally, the bill stipulates that any swatting call that results in a death can be considered manslaughter. Assemblyman Gatto introduced AB 47 on December 19, 2012, even before the recent spate of high-profile swatting incidents.
There have been more than a dozen such calls in the last five months and several law enforcement officers have already been injured. Many officials, including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, fear that it’s only a matter of time before events turn deadly. The calls thus far have been focused on humiliating celebrities like Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, and in at least one case, to harm a blogger based on his political ideology.
“Swatting is a dangerous prank and a serious drain of public-safety resources away from real emergencies,” said Gatto. “This bill is not just about protecting folks like Justin Bieber. It’s about protecting kids playing in the street when emergency vehicles needlessly speed by. It’s about protecting homeowners and law enforcement when a house is needlessly stormed.”
Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood. www.asm.ca.gov/gatto
“Police fear that this potential deadly prank will become more prevalent if we do not do something to elevate ‘swatting’ to a serious crime. This common-sense legislation will discourage this dangerous activity and allow law enforcement to deploy their officers and precious resources to real crimes-in-progress.”