This post strays a little away from my usual tech topics, but I think it is important and wanted to add my two cents to the conversation.
Before we start, I will begin with what SWATTING is. It is basically someone “prank calling” (and I use quotation marks to indicate my belief that it is more than a prank) the police with a threat or admission to killing someone, or more often, multiple people. They then indicate they are someone else and give them the persons address they are pretending to be. This sees heavily armed police not messing around, rolling up at innocent peoples’ homes and forcefully detaining them.
A lot of you by now would of seen the recent video of online gaming group The Creature’s Jordan “Kootra” Mathewson being SWATTED in his office in a small US town. If not, take a look below.
This act may seem funny to some people, but it is a disgusting blight on the gaming culture. There are many reasons this is stupid, including, but not limited to, the growing number of police who are now militarised and seem unafraid to shoot first and ask questions later, but more on that soon.
If something had of gone wrong, well more wrong than it already was, it is possible that Kootra may have been severely injured or even killed. A simple miscommunication, a wrong move by one, or something occurring outside of anyones control could easily have harmed those involved.
Thankfully, it appears he has come away from this with little more than a bruised ego.
Dag nabbit that was dern sure an experience. I am all Ok though. Thanks for all the supportive tweets everyone
— Kootra (@Kootra) August 27, 2014
There has been work towards attempting to make those calling in these prank calls accountable by some American politicians, including California State Senator Ted Lieu.
But these laws are useless if we don’t know who it is that is making the calls. As is expected, any call to the police is treated very seriously. Particularly when it claims someone has killed multiple people and is going to kill more if someone doesn’t show up with a helicopter.
So why then can we not track the call? Because they are using easily accessible internet relay chat or phone number blocking apps and devices.
I don’t know the answer to stopping it, but greater investigation by emergency call takers could be part of a potential solution. Or even when officers first arrive on the scene, perhaps a better canvasing and initial investigation to avoid this.
Because it is not just happening to gamers who can be somewhat aware of the situation, but it is happening to innocent families and celebrities.
I would also recommend to all gamers to take down any personally identifying data from your online profiles, including PSN, Xbox Live and Steam. Do not link your private social media accounts to them, and do not accept friend requests from gamers you don’t know. After all, if they don’t know your address, they can’t SWAT you.
Getting into another aspect of this is the relentless increase in police militarisation. In the US, police have been given over $4.3 billion worth of military equipment to increase their Special Weapons and Tactics departments’ arsenal, including weapons, vehicles (read: BearCats, worth over AUD$400,000 each and which Australia has eleven of, spread over each state and territory), clothing and robots.
Of course, all of this is under the guise of ‘terrorism prevention’, but when even the US military deems the use of BearCats unnecessary, why are they put onto suburban streets with arguably less trained people to deal with them.
There has been over a 1500% increase in the use of SWAT teams over the last 30 years. And for smaller and smaller operations, like simple drug raids or warrant searches. And they have had incidents of shooting and killing pets “accidently” with small children in the houses. And this for when they only find recreational amounts of marijuana.
Here in Australia, the use of our police TAG (Tactical Assault Group) units is watched closely and is only ever deployed when necessary for already violent situations. That is what they are for. American police departments seem to have no trouble using them in situations where violence is unnecessary and where they only serve the worsen the situation. And the statistics aren’t there to back up police claims of increasing violence, in fact violent crime rates have been dropping for some time.
Maybe this ties in to the need for the US to improve their gun control laws, so that everyone is safer and they don’t feel this equipment is necessary. I hate to flog a dead horse, but the continual relentless denial of there being a problem with gun laws in America is disturbing. The facts are there. It is plain to see. Gun laws in Australia have prevented any major violent event since their introduction. We haven’t had a problem. There hasn’t been any issues of rights taken away or the government taking over.
All of this is something that needs to be looked at heavily. It needs to be fixed now, before someone innocent is killed.
I’ll leave you with this from the brilliant John Oliver.