A bill prefiled for next year’s General Assembly session would make it a felony to call in a false report on a home, if the report resulted in an emergency response or an injury to the home’s occupant.
The practice, known as “Swatting,” is defined by the FBI has making a false 911 call to report an emergency at a home, with the intent of causing law enforcement and other responders to rush to the home.
Rep. Phillip Pratt, a Georgetown Republican, said last week he was inspired to file the bill after learning about a March “Swatting” incident in Scott County. According to media accounts, sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a fatal shooting in the home, only to find a family that had no idea what was happening.
In that incident, the deputies first called the home from a house nearby, Pratt said. “Even then, the wife was reluctant to come out,” Pratt said. “She was scared to death.
“It could have gone very badly,” Pratt said. The call is believed to have come from outside the state, Pratt said.
“Since that happened, there have been four more (incidents) in Scott County,” Pratt said.
Later, Pratt said, “Evidently, it goes on a lot more than we think.”
Making a false report currently is a misdemeanor in Kentucky, Pratt said. The bill would make it a class D felony if a person knowingly makes false report, and the report results in an emergency response.
If the victim of the Swatting were injured, or if an emergency responder were injured, the offense would become a class C felony.
Swatters “put a lot of people in danger when they do this.”
A false emergency report that resorts in death or serious physical injury of a person could be a class B felony under Pratt’s bill. The victim of a Swatting attack could sue the perpetrator for damages, according to Pratt’s bill.
Pratt said making the crime a felony in those cases would allow law enforcement officials to extradite a perpetrator who made the call from another state.
“Most of these calls come from out of state,” Pratt said. “We are trying to put some teeth into (the law), so we can go across state lines and track these people down.
“This is not just a practical joke,” Pratt said. “These people have the intent of doing people harm.”
Pratt said he discussed the issue during a judiciary committee over the summer, and received strong support from legislators.
“I got a positive feedback,” Pratt said.
“When I started talking to law enforcement across the state, people are largely supportive” of the bill, Pratt said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse