Bill would raise penalty for ‘swatting’ calls

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Public Safety is proposing that someone caught making a so-called “swatting” call that prompts a massive law enforcement response to a fake threat be charged with a felony.

Josie Wagler of the Department of Public Safety says in 2021, there were four reports of swatting calls in Iowa. Last year, there were 39. “Our purpose really is to just try and deter bad actors from tying up emergency resources and trying to k p the public and emergency response agencies safe,” she says.

Under the proposal, a person who makes a fake call about a violent attack, an armed intruder or a bomb threat could be charged with a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. Representative Brian Meyer, a Democrat from Des Moines, says a call intended to prompt SWAT teams to show up somewhere isn’t like a prank call to 9-1-1. “And I just want to make sure we don’t get people caught up in the bow wave of doing something stupid versus being very malicious and intentional about it, which I think this bill addresses,” Meyer says.

Last week, the White House was the target of a fake “swatting” call after someone called 9-1-1 to falsely claim the White House was on fire and someone was trapped inside. Several elected officials around the country have been subjected to these kind of incidents in recent weeks. The mayor of Boston has been targeted with several fake calls to 9-1-1 about shootings at her home.