Calgary police are warning the public of the consequences of swatting phone calls after two men were charged in relation to two swatting instances earlier this year that unnecessarily tied up service members.
“Swatting” is a term used to describe false reports of criminal activity that prompt police to dispatch a large number of officers.
In a news release, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) explained that swatting calls have the potential to create significant risks to public safety and end up costing taxpayers.
“They endanger the public, our officers and divert limited emergency resources from people who really do need help,” Staff Sgt. Jodi Gach explained.
“We have no choice but to respond as though every call we get is real, and even though we are glad these serious incidents turn out to be fake, there is still a very real cost to Calgarians.”
Charges laid in swatting incidents
The first of the swatting charges recently laid by the CPS was related to a series of alleged swatting calls that happened in the East Village between June 4 and July 4.
During that month, the CPS said officers were called to the area 23 times by someone who reported witnessing a crime involving a weapon or a medical emergency.
During a call on July 4, police say officers were able to locate a suspect in a home in the 600 block of 6 Avenue Southeast.
A search warrant was executed, and a number of electronic items were seized.
Investigators believe the same suspect may be responsible for eight additional alleged swatting calls that happened in southwest Calgary between April 24 and May 3, as well as 55 additional calls to 911 since September 2018.
“Although these additional calls did not meet the threshold for criminal charges, each call required emergency dispatch and police resources,” the CPS stated.
Zachary James Jakeman, 25, is charged with 35 offences related to public mischief and making false statements.
He is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 10.
The second incident of alleged swatting in which officers laid charges happened late last month.
Police were reportedly called to a building in the 600 block of 3 Avenue Southwest just before 10 a.m. on Sept. 26 for reports of a man with a gun.
CPS said an emergency lockdown was put in place, forcing dozens of employees to either hide in their offices or leave the building.
On Wednesday, police arrested Shing Lam, 31, and charged him with making a false statement and public mischief. Lam is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 22.
Swatting costs taxpayers thousands of dollars
The CPS said the series of alleged swatting incidents in the East Village provided them with the unique opportunity to analyze the cost of swatting and determine an estimated price for the response:
- Approximately 612 officer service hours were expended in response to swatting calls that occurred in 2019. (This does not include hours of work for call takers and dispatchers at Calgary 911.) The estimated financial cost attributed to this is $82,720.
- A total of 36 personnel, both sworn and civilian, from six investigative teams, were involved in the investigation. The total number of investigative hours is estimated at 1,075. The total estimated cost for the investigation is approximately $97,587.
- A conservative estimate for the total call response and investigative cost for the swatting calls attributed to the East Village series of calls is approximately 1,687 hours, or approximately $180,308.
“This is a significant expense and drain of resources that could have otherwise been invested in legitimate calls for service by the public,” the CPS said.