Elaborate Hoax Call With Screaming Brings SWAT to NJ Neighborhood
FAIR LAWN — Bergen County law enforcement scrambled Thursday night after a 911 call from a man who said he had shot his mother, according to the Fair Lawn-Glen Rock Daily Voice.
With screaming in the background and the man's threat he was holding two siblings at knifepoint inside a home on Roosevelt Place, police from Elmwood Park joined the county tactical team and Sheriff's Office in responding to the call.
When they arrived, all was quiet and there was no crisis.
"I have not heard that recording but what I can tell you is that it definitely warranted the response," Fair Lawn police Sgt. Eric Eleshewich said, adding that the source of the call remains under investigation.
It followed a pattern of other swatting calls in the past several months in which a shooting is reported to already be underway when in fact that's not the case.
Ten New Jersey police departments received similar calls about a school in their community in October. Lawrence Township received a call about Rider University and Rutgers Police and another about the college in the same week in early April. All those cases remain under investigation.
A new way to make a swatting call
The website Vice reports a recent twist to how swatting calls are placed: a service called "Torswats" which uses artificial intelligence to generate the call.
Available on the messaging app Telegram calls are purchased based on what the result will be. A call costing $75 call will close down a school while a $50 could lead to someone being cuffed by police. The service allows a threat to be made while further protecting the identity of the person making the threat.
There is at least one confirmed case using the service in Iowa, according to Vice. A 16-year-old boy was charged in a threat made against Hempstead High School in Dubuque. The technology is suspected in swatting calls directed at private residences in California, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia.
The FBI's Newark office on Friday afternoon did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for more information.
No matter the source of a swatting call, Eleshewich is concerned about the possible end result.
"Somewhere someone's going to get really hurt, which is unfortunate," Eleshewich said.