Legislation Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli co-sponsors with Assembly Democrats increasing penalties for making a false public alarm was approved by the General Assembly today. Numerous false alarms have been called into law enforcement resulting in the deployment of emergency responders, including the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT). “Swatting” is the common term used to describe the crime of calling in such false alarms.
“Emergency responders can’t wait until they can confirm there is a legitimate threat to public safety,” said Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “They arrive at the scene prepared for any situation. Swatting calls are occurring far too often and are a threat to public safety.
“Schools, malls and private residences are the targets of misguided people who think this is a harmless prank. Unnecessarily deploying emergency responders diverts their attention from a timely response to a real emergency,” he continued. “Time spent verifying a false alarm and the diversion of manpower is a real danger. Upgrading the penalties sends a message of the seriousness of the offense and that such hoaxes have serious consequences. I am happy to work in a bipartisan manner to advance this important legislation.”
The bill, A-4375, upgrades swatting from a third degree to second degree crime; which carries a 5-10 year prison term, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Convicted individuals may also be assessed a civil penalty of $2,000 or the actual costs incurred by law enforcement and emergency services that respond to the false alarm.