OLATHE, Kan. — Kansas City-area officials have a warning: Swatting calls have consequences.
Hoax calls of active shooters at schools are on the rise, including in Kansas and Missouri. There were three alone in the Kansas City region on Monday, the same day that six people were killed at a Nashville school.
But Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said these aren’t pranks, and there’s nothing funny about them. In fact, it’s dangerous.
Howe said Kansas City-area law enforcement take these calls seriously, and the consequences are costly.
“It can have life or death consequences for these types of acts,” Howe said.
These school swatting calls, or prank calls to 911 to bring a large number of police to a particular address, often describe a nightmare for parents.
“If you think about the impact that it will have on the schools and the kids when all the police show up and they’re acting like a major incident has happened, it has a traumatic effect,” Howe said.
Back in 2017, Wichita police shot and killed an innocent man after they were called there by someone who turned out to be a swatter. Investigators later determined the call was the result of a feud between two online gamers.
Afterward, the Kansas Legislature put a new law on the books, making it so a swatting call cna result in more than 7 years in prison.
“If you’re caught and held accountable for this, you’re going to do significant time in the penitentiary,” Howe said.
But the worst-case scenario is someone dying from a hoax call.
“It’s not a game, and when the law enforcement people are responding with that level of information, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong,” said John Hamilton, a criminal justice administration professor emeritus at Park University.
Hamilton said lawmakers taking action and officials making sure the law is enforced are likely the best tools against swatting calls.
“Legislation is important because if you haven’t established the boundaries of what’s acceptable and not acceptable, you can’t go anywhere,” Hamilton said.