A series of possible swatting incidents locked down high schools in at least a half-dozen New Jersey counties Friday within a half-hour span, law enforcement sources with knowledge of the case say, indicating a possible targeted attack.
Police in Toms River tweeted that they got a call about a possible shooting at High School North around 11 am and the school was locked down. Cops confirmed they were investigating the incident as a possible swatting case and said there was no active threat.
Around the same time, emergency correspondence showed more than a half-dozen schools in at least five counties got similar calls. All of the affected buildings are high schools and they cover the length of the state, from Hamilton High in Mercer County to East Brunswick High School in Middlesex, Barnegat High School in Ocean and Weequihaic in Newark.
Similar incidents have apparently been reported across the country in recent days, according to a high-ranking law enforcement source.
Here’s what you need to know about the dangerous hoax:
What is a swatting call?
“Swatting” is a hoax that involves making false 9-1-1 calls to provoke large responses by law enforcement groups, such as SWAT teams — hence the name.
According to the FBI“swatters” often make fake reports of hostages about to be executed or bombs about to go off.
These calls place the community in danger as responders rush to the scene, taking them away from real emergencies, the FBI said. The officers and first responders are placed in danger as unsuspecting residents may try to defend themselves.
How and why did swatting begin?
According to the Anti-Defamation Leaguethese calls are often made to a target’s residence or place of work to harass and intimidate them.
Though the FBI has been aware of swatting for over a decade, the ADL says it appears to be on the rise in recent years.
Swatting garnered attention in online communities associated with video games. According to the ADL, some gamers targeted their rivals by calling 9-1-1 during an opponent’s live stream so they could watch online while a SWAT team conducted a raid on the victim.