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Lawmaker seeks tough penalties for 'swatters'

January 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A state lawmaker is pushing a bill that prescribes tough penalties on so-called "swatters," the perpetrators of hoax emergency phone calls targeting the homes of celebrities.

Swatting involves getting police to respond to fake emergencies at celebrity homes. Authorities say the number of these types of calls has been increasing.

Earlier this week, law enforcement officers swarmed the home of singer Chris Brown after receiving what turned out to be a false 911 call reporting domestic violence. Brown wasn't home and police found no evidence of wrongdoing. Other recent victims of the bogus emergency calls include Tom Cruise and reality show stars Bruce Jenner and the Kardashians.

State Sen. Ted Lieu (D- Torrance) said the calls drain the resources of law enforcement agencies and creates dangerous situations for personnel and residents. He hopes the bill will deter pranksters.

"It will increase penalties on false 911 calls by making it easier to prosecute a felony for the calls," Lieu said. "It will also hold the perpetrator responsible for the cost of the false 911 call."

The Los Angeles Police Department said it's a dangerous trend.

"The scenarios that are painted for the officers that are responding is so vivid and so realistic that the officers are responding at a very heightened level of awareness," said LAPD Lt. Andy Nieman.

In December, a 12-year-old boy was arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly making fake calls after police rushed to the homes of celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber.

"Hopefully if folks know that if they make one of these calls and they are caught, they can be liable for the entire cost of having multiple law enforcement officials show up," Lieu said.

Under Lieu's bill, the maximum penalty for swatting would be three years in county jail.


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