Just when you think people have pretty much reached the lowest possible depths of depravity, something new and even more shocking happens.
It’s not necessarily that people are worse than before. Terrible behavior is not exclusive to modern times. But today’s technology has enabled people to commit terrible misdeeds on a massive scale without even leaving their homes.
We had an unfortunate glimpse of this in our area in late February, when incidents of swatting took place at schools in Berks and Chester counties and at a restaurant in Reading, all within days.
Swatting is the practice of pranking the emergency services with the intention of causing a large number of armed police to be dispatched to a particular address.
It is an absolutely terrible thing to do. At a minimum, it’s absolutely terrifying for those affected and a huge waste of time and resources for law enforcement. At worst, it leads to innocent people being injured or even killed. Whether the intent is a disturbance or some kind of perverted amusement, that’s about as appalling as the behavior can get.
People in our area have just seen what a nightmare crashing can be.
On February 24, approximately 100 law enforcement officers descended on the Wilson High School campus during Friday morning classes after Berks dispatchers responded to a call, which was later determined to be a hoax, regarding a shooting in the school. Police in tactical gear descended on the school and parents were scared beyond belief until it became clear what really happened.
Earlier today, Chester County Police received a call reporting there was an intruder at Lionville Middle School. The school immediately went into a modified lockdown and the police responded. Police searched the building and confirmed that the report was baseless.
Then, two days later, a hoax sent a team of officers in tactical gear to a Wendy’s restaurant in Reading. The Berks County Emergency Response Team responded in force after a caller reported a person, possibly armed, hiding in a dumpster near the business. A search revealed nothing suspicious, police said. But it caused huge disruption along one of Reading’s busiest streets and cost the restaurant several hours of business.
In all three cases, officials said the calls originated from outside the area, though they don’t know exactly where. Technology allows people to make a call appear to be coming from where the crime is supposed to take place. That’s a big part of what makes the crashing issue so vexing. These pranks can come from anywhere in the country or the world. It’s not something local law enforcement can handle, and it’s not easy for the likes of the FBI either.
The general problem is not new. Swatting is often associated with online gamers and has been around for years. In early cases, players would dishonestly summon law enforcement at the competitors’ homes or businesses to play a prank.
In one case in 2020, a man incorrectly reported a violent encounter at a home in Tennessee. When police stormed the house with firearms, the owner came out with his hands visible, but then lost his balance and fell. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital due to a heart attack, according to The New York Times.
In 2017, a man was killed in Kansas after police responded to a fake homicide and hostage call, NBC News reported. A police officer shot the man, who had come out onto his porch unarmed.
The pranks in Wilson and Lionville are part of a disturbing new trend of fags targeting schools. Dozens of such incidents have been reported across the country in recent months. It is a horrifying development at a time when so many of us live in fear of school shootings hitting our communities.
We commend law enforcement and school officials here for handling recent situations as well as they have, acting quickly to protect students and staff and doing their best to maintain lanes. open communication with the community, especially the children’s families .
This is a positive thing that we can point to in this otherwise heartbreaking situation.