Fake 911 Calls Known as "Swatting" Alarm Police

As kids, we're all taught to dial 911 in the case of an emergency only. Now, more and more people are dialing 911 as a joke and police say it can be extremely dangerous.

Technology has allowed people to prank call others using disguised numbers, but now some are taking that a little too far.

"Prank calls to the police have always occurred, it's the nature of these call that are alarming," says Lt. Robert Larson with the Reno Police Department.

The fake calls are called "swatting," a fake 911 call that sounds extremely serious, and requires special resources, like the SWAT team.

"We take a certain type of response based on the call those people aren't expecting. They're unaware and their safety is at risk depending on how we are entering that building we may be entering with guns drawn or things like that," says Lt. Larson.

In the past two months, Reno PD has responded to eight swatting calls. He says the calls can have negative effects both on the victims and the department.

"Obviously if we are responding to a call that is unreal, it takes resources off the street, and then if we do have real calls during that time we don't have the resources to respond to a call that is actually occurring," says Lt. Larson.

Swatting calls do have serious consequences. On a local level, you can be charged with filing a false police report and abusing 911. If the SWAT team breaks down a door, you can be held liable for the damage, and you can also be held liable to any injuries.

But that's not all, Lt. Larson says you can face federal charges as well.

"Depending on how the call is placed the FBI or federal agency may come in and go after more serious charges," says Lt. Larson.

The FBI has been investigating swat cases since the early 2000's.

In just one four year period recently, there were more than a 100 victims of swatting around the country, resulting in a quarter of a million dollar loss in police resources.

"Everyone's resources are fairly limited these days and to lose some of those resources for a false call when they could be used elsewhere is just not good," says Lt. Larson.

Reno police say they have tracked down swatters, and want to remind people the consequences can be severe.

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