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The rich Canadian history of ‘swatting’

In this April 22, 2014, file photo, Nassau County police officers enter a home in Long Beach, N.Y., in search of an armed killer, based on a phone call that turned out to be a hoax.
In this April 22, 2014, file photo, Nassau County police officers enter a home in Long Beach, N.Y., in search of an armed killer, based on a phone call that turned out to be a hoax. AP Photo / Jim Staubitser

A recent case of ‘swatting’ in Toronto has put the dangerous prank back in the spotlight. Swatting was a little known phenomenon until a rash of celebrity and online gaming attacks brought across North America.

Ottawa Police describe the term as a way of engaging emergency services with false calls in order to enact revenge on an individual or organization by causing armed police SWAT teams to respond to a situation thinking there is an active shooter at the scene.

In Canada, swatting isn’t new.

READ MORE: Home insurance, perpetrators could be forced to pay for swatting damages 

In 2014, four teens, two from Ontario, one from Quebec and one from B.C. were charged following an investigation into swatting incidents across Canada and the U.S.

  • A 16-year-old Ottawa teen faced 60 charges for alleged involvement in dozens of incidents across North America designed to get a police SWAT team to respond.
  • A Milton, Ont., teen was arrested and charged with public mischief after an April 2014 incident that led to the evacuation of Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School in the community west of Toronto.
  • A 15-year-old boy from Laval, Que., north of Montreal, was arrested and charged with allegedly using a telephone or a computer to target a shopping centre, two private homes, and the same school twice.
  • A 17-year-old boy from the Metro Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam pleaded guilty last week to more than a dozen charges of extortion, public mischief and breach of recognizance after alleged swatting incidents in Fort Meade and Winter Haven, Fla. between September and November 2014.
WATCH: Innocent man has home raided after ‘swatting’ prank near TorontoThe RCMP says that while the person behind the call could be charged with public mischief, finding suspects is difficult because of the nature of the attack.READ MORE: Teen charged with swatting incidents in Florida expected in courtThe attacks can also be random, as appears to be the case with the recent swatting incident in Toronto, but the real danger of swatting is that it ties up valuable emergency response resources.Those resources could be used to prevent real crimes or save lives – something that short-sighted ‘swatters’ may not realize when they’re dialing 911.With files from The Canadian Press

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