According to a 22-year FBI veteran, advancements in artificial intelligence have contributed to the increase in swatting calls, posing a threat to Americans’ emotional well-being and lives. Swatting, which involves making false 911 reports to trigger an aggressive police response, has become more prevalent over the past decade due to the ease with which callers can conceal their identities. The FBI created a national database earlier this year to address the rising number of swatting incidents, recording over 200 occurrences since May 1. The FBI spokesman emphasized that the agency takes swatting seriously as it puts innocent lives at risk and pledged to collaborate with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to address this issue.
Before the implementation of the database, swatting calls were not officially tracked. However, Kevin Kolbye, a former FBI agent, estimated that incidents had increased from 400 in 2011 to over 1,000 in 2019, as reported by the Anti-Defamation League. Swatters utilize various techniques to mask their identities, such as virtual private networks and IP address hopping, aiming to cause as much emotional havoc as possible. The motivations behind swatting can vary, but they all have negative intentions. Over the past year, swatting incidents have at least doubled, with some threat actors offering swatting services for a fee on the dark web.
There is also a concern that overseas terrorists could exploit AI masking technology to make swatting calls, as some countries wish to create chaos in the United States. Schools have become targets for fake threats as well, with almost 64% of violent incidents reported during the 2022-2023 school year being false active shooter reports, according to the Educator’s School Safety Network. Turgal highlighted the significant detrimental impact of swatting, not only on law enforcement but also on students, faculty, and parents. The mental and emotional toll of these cases is considerable, which further complicates handling the situation.
Some swatting calls have tragically resulted in fatalities. For instance, in a specific incident, a police officer shot and killed an innocent victim in response to a false report. The severity of such consequences underscores the urgency to address the growing issue of swatting and develop effective measures to prevent and prosecute those responsible.