SWATTING: Prank calls send large SWAT responses to false alarms - KMSP-TV

SWATTING: Prank calls send large SWAT responses to false alarms

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It's a crime to make a fake 911 call, but pranksters calling to say someone has been shot or is holding a bomb have sent SWAT departments in the metro out for nothing -- and the costs are mounting.

Most Saturday nights, Anthony Murphy's house is a place for playing video games and spending time with the kids -- but that changed last week when he got a phone call from his oldest son at 9:30 p.m.

"He was very, very frantic," Murphy recalled. "'Dad! There are police officers outside!'"

Murphy's son was stuck at the corner of 75th and Xerxes, and police wouldn't let anyone enter the neighborhood. He was updating his father on the situation, but little did he know, the SWAT team was actually trying to get inside his house.

"As soon as I opened the door and went outside, boom! Brooklyn park police, 'Put your hands in the air!'" Murphy told Fox 9 News.

Police say someone called 911 to say a man inside Murphy's home had shot a person and also had a bomb.

"It came in emotional. It was described as a real event that any reasonable person would believe was real," Cmdr. Mark Bruly said.

It was all a hoax -- and Bruly doesn't believe the caller used a land line or cell phone, which makes the caller difficult to track.

"They work hard to disguise themselves and they find creative ways to get around us looking for them," Bruly explained.

The so-called "SWATting" incidents aren't just happening in Brooklyn Park, either. One came in to Plymouth police three weeks ago, and a portion of the 911 call shows just how serious it sounded.

"Okay, I just heard two more shots," the caller said. "I heard two more shots."

So far, police in Brooklyn Park, Plymouth, Golden Valley, Eden Prairie, Edina, and Minnetonka have either directly responded or assisted with a bogus call in the past year and half. Even resources from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota State Patrol have been summoned for nothing -- and each event can rack up $7,000 in personnel costs.

However, it's not just the wasted resources that have Plymouth Police Chief Mike Goldstein trying to stop the trend. He's concerned that public safety could suffer because police have to approach every call as though it's real.

"Whether it's a traffic crash of us getting to the scene, whether it's neighbors taking things into their own hands," he explained.

When the Murphy family home was surrounded, several neighbors were evacuated over that fake bomb threat.

"They had guns drawn on everybody that came out of the house, including the 9-year-old," Murphy recalled.

Murphy said he isn't mad at the police; however, he's still trying to figure out why he was targeted and hopes police will find the caller.

"They're going to get caught," Murphy predicted.

So far, no one has ever been arrested for a SWATting incident om the metro; however, it would be a felony-level crime.

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