Governor Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law a public-safety measure mandating full restitution to taxpayers from those convicted of falsely reporting emergencies to 911 — commonly known as “swatting.”
The measure, Senate Bill 333 by Sen. Ted W. Lieu (who represents Santa Monica, the Westside and South Bay), takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.
“Swatting drains vital resources from law enforcement and puts officers and citizens in dangerous situations,” Lieu said. “To those who engage in this dangerous practice, be aware this is not a game and you will be held responsible for all associated costs.”
Sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department, Lieu’s measure comes after numerous false reports of threats or invaders in the homes of numerous California residents. The Los Angeles Police Department, LA County Sheriff’s Department, Beverly Hills Police Department, and other agencies have spent thousands of dollars and put their officers in dangerous situations as a result of swatting incidents.
Under Lieu’s bill, which applies to any cases of false 911 reports, a person convicted of making a false emergency report would be held liable for all costs associated with the response by law enforcement. Estimates range from several thousand to more than $10,000 per episode.
Police and sheriffs continue to respond immediately, in large numbers and with force if needed, to reports of violent crime at the homes of residents because it’s hard to know what is real and what is “swatting,” which refers to a prank call reporting a violent crime that results in a tactical police response that may include a SWAT team.