Ohio’s fight against “swatting” is well underway months after Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 462 into law in April, which made it a felony to engage in the dangerous hoax calls.
Dozens of schools and facilities across the state have fallen victim to the concerning trend of swatting, a dangerous hoax where callers falsely report active shooter situations.
To combat the reckless behavior, Ohio’s updated legislation now classifies swatting as a fourth-degree felony, with the severity rising to a second-degree felony if the incident leads to serious physical harm.
Moreover, those found guilty will also be held financially liable for reimbursing law enforcement agencies for the resources expended during the response to the false threat.
Lawmakers are hopeful that these stringent penalties will serve as a powerful deterrent against this distressing crime.
For nearly a year, swatting incidents have been a significant challenge for law enforcement officials, particularly affecting Montgomery County in southwest Ohio.
Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck expressed the extensive resources required to respond to these fabricated emergencies.
“Every time it happens, there are resources coming from everywhere, depending on what the call says,” he explained.
Streck added that the process involves setting up perimeters, dispatching officers to the scene and attempting to establish communication with the alleged victims.
Apart from causing unnecessary panic, swatting cases also drain considerable money and resources.
“You have a lot of police officers, deputy sheriffs out there responding, usually with lights and sirens to get somewhere when they don’t need to be,” Streck added.
Representative Kevin Miller (R-Newark), a primary sponsor of HB 462, voiced his concern and motivation behind the law.
“The intent of this legislation is to deter this unwanted behavior,” Miller stated, “So hopefully that’s just what it will do.”
Since its enactment in April, there is limited evidence to gauge the law’s impact in deterring swatting incidents. Miller acknowledged that it might be too early to draw definitive conclusions. Nonetheless, he has not received reports of any swatting situations since the bill’s implementation.
Despite the lack of concrete data, Sheriff Streck highlighted his office’s previous success in prosecuting individuals involved in swatting incidents, and was hopeful the law would add more tools for law enforcement.
“We’re getting ready to head in to back to school for elementary, high school, colleges, all of that,” he said. “So this is a good time to put this bill through so that we have another tool in our toolbox to try to deal with these kinds of individuals.”
Throughout 2022, Ohio faced a series of swatting incidents that disrupted schools across the tri-state area. In one instance, Princeton High School in Sharonville was dismissed for the day following a false report of an active shooter with injuries.
Subsequent incidents affected other schools, including Gamble Montessori High School, Shroder High School, Winton Woods, Pleasant Run Middle School, Mt. Airy Elementary, Fairfield Freshman School, and Reading Community City schools.