Hollywood celebrities could see fewer fake visits from cops after California’s crackdown on a prank called ‘swatting,’ where jokesters place bogus 911 calls to draw police to the homes of entertainers and others.
A new law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday evening, aims to curtail the hoaxes by requiring people convicted of falsely reporting emergencies to bear the full cost of the response.
Police responded to a 911 call on Wednesday claiming someone had a weapon in the pop star's home, only to find Justin Bieber has become the latest victim of new pranking trend called "swatting," which involves illegal fake 911 calls to send authorities to celebrities' homes. NBC's Andrea Canning reports.
"The reason it's called swatting is because the incident that's being described is of such a severe nature that the police send a SWAT team or its equivalent," state Sen. Ted Lieu, a Democrat who sponsored the bill and represents the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance, told Reuters.
Swatters have in the past sent police racing to the homes of Ashton Kutcher, Tom Cruise, the Kardashians, Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Clint Eastwood, according to a fact sheet distributed by Lieu, who was himself is a victim of swatting.
Under the new law callers — or their parents — will be required to reimburse police agencies for the full cost of each emergency call, which can run as high as $10,000, Lieu said.
Pranksters could also face up to a year in jail.
The law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
“Swatting drains vital resources from law enforcement and puts officers and citizens in dangerous situations,” Lieu said in announcing the bill’s successful passage.
In April, the Los Angeles Police Department said it would no longer issue news releases or immediately confirm swatting cases, saying the media coverage only seemed to encourage more incidents.