TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — People convicted of calling authorities with false reports to get SWAT teams called to the scene could get up to 10 years in prison under a bill that advanced Monday in a legislative committee.
The Assembly's Homeland Security panel voted 3-0 to move the swatting measure to the full Assembly after hearing several reasons why it was needed and no opposition. A similar bill hasn't been introduced in the state Senate.
Bill sponsor Paul Moriarty, a Democratic assemblyman from Gloucester County's Washington Township, told his colleagues he was swatted last month after announcing his plans to introduce legislation.
He also played a recording of the call that sparked the police response. The caller, who gave Moriarty's address, said he had shot his father at the home and had tied up his sister and mother. The caller also threatened to shoot any police officers who showed up.
Moriarty said his house was surrounded by officers with rifles and protective gear.
"It is dangerous, someone could get killed, someone could get seriously hurt, and it is not funny at all," he said. No one has been charged for that swatting.
When a police department sends most or all of its officers to such a report, he noted, it means no one is patrolling the rest of the community.
Moriarty said upgrading the penalty for certain false alarm convictions would make it far more likely the suspects would get prison sentences.
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, the chairwoman of the Homeland Security committee, said swatting happened a half-dozen times around the state in April.
Swatting has been getting more attention in recent years, but it's not clear how many states are responding to it with legislation. The National Conference of State Legislatures says it's not tracking it.
One law was passed in California in 2013 that requires those convicted of swatting to reimburse authorities for the resources used — something that is also part of the New Jersey proposal.
The lawmaker behind that measure was also swatted after he introduced it.
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