DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Miami Valley officials and law enforcement officers are weighing in on a bill that would make ‘swatting’ its own offense in Ohio.
Swatting is when someone knowingly reports a false emergency which prompts a large police response. It is becoming a growing problem and schools are the latest targets. In just the last few months, several schools in the Miami Valley were hit with these hoax calls, including Catholic Central High School in Springfield, Belmont High School in Dayton, Trotwood-Madison High School, and Middletown High School.
State Representative Brian Lampton, who represents District 73, is a cosponsor of HB 462 which would make swatting its own offense in Ohio.
“Because this specific phone call, the bad people have figured out how to create the police response that brings guns drawn, knocking doors down, and so that’s why we’re responding with this, making it a more serious crime,” Lampton said.
Currently, suspects in these swatting incidents can be charged with inducing panic. Kadawni Scott, an Assistant Clark County Prosecutor, is working on the case against the juvenile arrested in connection to one of the swatting calls at Catholic Central. He said this bill will create another way to hold people accountable.
“My understanding is with swatting, you don’t have to go through the additional layers of an inducing panic charge, where, is there a mass evacuation? Is it a business? You look at these additional factors versus the swatting, if you just do it and make the call, then it’s a little bit easier to target as far as having it prosecuted,” Scott explained.
Captain Mike Kranz knows firsthand just how scary swatting calls can be. He and other officers from the Springfield Police Department responded to two different swatting incidents at Catholic Central just a couple of months ago. He said these calls exhaust a lot of resources from local agencies.
“It elicits a large response from the police department. It also draws resources from the schools. It interrupted the school day. And there’s all kinds of aspects to these events, and there’s no way around them. We have to respond like this,” Cpt. Kranz said.
Cpt. Kranz believes a bill like this is a step in the right direction to cracking down on these types of crimes.
“Having the statute in place and having the criminal side of it, having the charge actually elevated certainly helps are our stance some,” Cpt. Kranz said.
After the terrifying swatting incident at Belmont High School back in September 2022, Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Lolli is on board with the bill. She released this statement:
Earlier this year, the Dayton Public School District witnessed firsthand how swatting can unnecessarily induce panic, disrupt lives, and cause first responders to rush to a scene expecting a true emergency. These calls are not only disruptive to learning, but can create real fear among students, parents and staff. The district stands with the Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, and other organizations that have urged lawmakers to support HB 462.Dr. Elizabeth Lolli, DPS Superintendent
If the bill is signed into law, swatting would become a third degree felony. If someone is hurt during the police response, the suspect could be charged with a first degree felony. If convicted, they could also be required to pay back law enforcement for their response.
Scott said making swatting its own felony offense will hopefully show just how damaging these calls can be.
“Not only is it a risk, but it causes trauma. We already are dealing with a lot of the trauma that’s associated with gun violence and the mass use of gun violence, and laughing or creating a prank on people who have lived through those traumas and have lost loved ones. It’s not a laughing matter,” Scott said.
The bill passed in the House. It now heads to the Senate for approval.