** (Disclaimer: This video content is intended for educational and informational purposes only) **
At least nine Seattle police officers, guns drawn, swarmed a high-rise apartment building one day this past August after getting a 911 call. The caller had said he was holding five hostages at the location, and if he didn’t get $5,000, he would kill them all. The officers swiftly took up positions ready to shoot, according to body-camera footage of the incident. On cue, the lead officer knocked on the door. “Seattle Police Department. Anyone in there?” he yelled. “Yeah, just a second,” a voice replied. Moments later, a barefoot young woman faced down a heavily armed police squad. Inside the apartment, it was just her and her cat — no hostages. The 911 call was a hoax known as “swatting,” so named because Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams are often used when responding to the most serious emergency calls, like reports of hostages. The criminal prank uses cities’ emergency response systems to harass their targets by sending police rushing into unsuspecting victims’ home. Swatting remains a serious problem across the country, but as a hub for gamers and streamers, Seattle needs a solution sooner rather than later.
And on Monday, the Seattle Police Department announced it’s finally found one: Officials worked with a local tech company to repurpose an app called RaveFacility, which provides information such as floorplans and contact numbers to emergency responders for places like school and business campuses. Because the system is linked to addresses, Seattle police will now be able to use the system as a makeshift database for potential swatting victims — as long as they sign up. “For the average person, this had gone away a few years ago, but for our industry, it’s been growing larger and larger,” said James Feore, director of partner relations for the Seattle Online Broadcasters Association, a group made up of streamers. They’re often the target of swatters because their live presence on the internet allows the dangerous prank to play out live, for everyone to watch. Feore said he’ll be encouraging the several hundred members of his group in Seattle to sign up for the registry. (http://www.seattle.gov/police/need-help/swatting)
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