Blue flasher on the police car at night.

Swatting is a criminal offense

September 23, 2023

According to Wikipedia, “swatting” is a criminal harassment act of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending a police or emergency service response team to another person’s address. This is triggered by false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation, or a false report of a mental health emergency, such as reporting that a person is allegedly suicidal or homicidal and may or may not be armed, among other things.

On Friday, September 23, 2023, the Garfield County Emergency Services (Dispatch) received just such a call. The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office was notified: reportedly, a male party stated that he had shot his wife and was planning to shoot his children and then set the house on fire. The address given was a legitimate address in the Cattle Creek area.

Due to the seriousness of the report, the All Hazards Response Team (AHRT) was called out in addition to several patrol deputies and other first responders. The actual owner of the property met with the deputies at the site. Once it was determined that the call out was likely a hoax, the owner unlocked his door and allowed the deputies to enter the home and verify that in fact the report was false and there was no issue at the property.

These swatting calls are a tremendous waste of resources. Typically, EMTs and multiple law enforcement agencies respond. The cost is borne by the taxpayers. The responders are involved with a false incident; until it is resolved, they are unable to respond to actual emergencies putting entire communities at risk. This is especially true in Garfield County where the municipalities are smaller and the geographic area is quite large.

Swatting is a criminal offense. Charges start as a class 1 misdemeanor but can quickly rise to the level of a felony depending on the nature of the report and the actions required by the responders. When the hoax involves homicides or potential homicides, a suicide, bomb threats, requires evacuations or if one of the responders is injured while responding, the charges leveled will escalate to the felony level. If the hoax crosses state lines, such as when a hoaxer calls from one state to report an address in another state, the crime is considered a federal crime and the FBI will likely be involved.

Swatting has occurred in multiple areas of our country and has happened in Garfield County on more than one occasion. Not only is it a tremendous waste of resources but it puts the responders and the people of Garfield County at risk. If you are aware of anyone involved in a swatting incident or planning one please notify your local law enforcement office, the sheriff’s office, or call (911) and give them your information. Our communities are stronger when we work together.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the other agencies who responded for their quick and professional response to this incident.