Home / World News / Colorado false crime reporting, “swatting” laws could get stiffer under bill

Colorado false crime reporting, “swatting” laws could get stiffer under bill

Legislation that would increase penalties for people who falsely report a crime as part of so-called “swatting” pranks advanced out of a state Senate committee on a unanimous vote Monday.

Senate Bill 68 would make false reporting that involves an imminent threat by use of a deadly weapon a Class 1 misdemeanor, instead of a Class 2 or Class 3 misdemeanor. That could mean jail terms of up to 18 months instead of a maximum of a year or six months, respectively.

The measure is meant to specifically address situations where people make false reports to authorities to elicit a massive police response, specifically that of a SWAT team, as a joke or prank.

Those incidents are known as “swatting,” and they started among video-gamers several years ago. Last month, swatting was even blamed for the death of a Kansas man killed by an officer

“(It’s a) very dangerous situation, for law enforcement and for the public,” said Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, who formerly served as Weld County’s sheriff and is a prime sponsor of the bill.

Fraudulent reporting involving imminent threat by use of a deadly weapon in which people’s lives are disrupted — through an evacuation, for instance — would be a Class 6 felony under the legislation. Further, if someone is seriously hurt because of a false emergency report, a Class 4 felony charge is possible. 

The bill would also make a false report that leads to a death a Class 3 felony, which typically carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison. Offenders would also be responsible for paying restitution equal to the cost of an evacuation or emergency response.

In Wichita last month, a man was killed after someone in Los Angeles made a fraudulent call to authorities claiming there had been a shooting and kidnapping at the victim’s home. When police arrived, they shot and killed a man who had done no wrong.

Swatting incidents have also happened in Colorado in recent years, including in Colorado Springs and Littleton. The latter situation was caught on video — showing the victim being held at gunpoint by officers — and prompted national headlines.

“In Littleton, literally every officer that we have on the street, on patrol, all our investigators that are in the office during the daytime, everybody we have available will respond and did respond on this incident,” testified Littleton Police Chief Doug Stephens.

He said swatting puts officers at risk as they rush to a scene and then in turn can create response issues when a real crime or emergency occur elsewhere.

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