ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - The 'swatting' trend has spread from California to Florida, and is putting local police on alert.
According to Urban Dictionary, swatting refers to a cyber crime that can be committed by strangers anywhere. It's an attempt to trick authorities into dispatching SWAT teams to fake emergencies.
Celebrities like Tom Cruise to Kim Kardashian have been targeted by pranksters, who have been successful at calling 911 and getting SWAT teams sent to star's homes. According to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, authorities in northeast Florida are falling for it, too.
"Swatting is an issue we're seeing more and more of. Predominantly we're seeing it with famous folks in our country who are having this prank pulled on them, but more recently in St. Johns County," said St. Johns County Commander Chuck Mulligan.
SJCSO responded to a home on South Mill View Way in Ponte Vedra in January after someone called 911 saying his mother had been shot in the head and several people were in the house taking hostages.
Seven deputies responded to the home and SJCSO put SWAT officers and a hostage negotiator on standby. The team quickly discovered that the call was a high-stakes hoax.
"When we showed up, this young individual who answered the door, his first response was, 'I knew this was going to happen,'" said Mulligan.
The young man told police that he had been on Skype with a person called "Meo." When the two got into an argument, "Meo" threatened to "SWAT" him by making a bogus phone call to police, authorities said.
The prank is not getting any laughs from law enforcement, who say the real life consequences of these pranks are severe.
"This individual could face charges for what he's done and it's certainly not a game and it's not funny," said Mulligan.
The investigation into the swatting call is still pending. Police said the case will serve as an important reminder to people that law enforcement resources aren't toys.
"You're actually responding to real people who deal with real-life situations with real criminals and real guns and we're responding as such. We don't take that phone call as a joke," said Mulligan.
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