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Seattle PD registry opens for residents worried about 'swatting'

A heads-up can inform how police respond if a 911 call claims you have an emergency.
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Police exit Engelhart Hall after a hoax call of shots fired at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., on Thursday, March 14, 2018. SIPA USA/PA Images

The practice of 'swatting' has increasingly become a part of online harassment, and now the Seattle Police Department formalized a proactive measure for residents who think they might be a target. It published a PSA for the project showing bodycam footage of officers responding to a call that turned out to be a swatting "prank" where a caller claimed he was holding five hostages and would kill them if he didn't get $5,000. When police rushed to the location, they found only a young woman and a cat.

For people like live streamers who may be targets, the PD is using its arrangement with a company called Rave Facility. It already used their tech to create a "Smart 911" profile residents could fill out to give responders a heads up about being hearing impaired, having pets or a medical condition to be concerned about. This next step contains a flag for registering swatting concerns about a particular location.

According to the police, they'll review and keep confidential any information that is submitted. Also, if a call comes in, they will still respond to it, but: "If a police response is requested to an address where swatting concerns have been registered, this information will be shared with first responders to inform and improve their police response to the incident."

This isn't a cure-all for the problem, for example it likely wouldn't have helped a man in Kansas who was killed by police due to a swatting hoax. In that case, one gamer gave another an incorrect address, which led to another man calling in the threat at that location. Still, it's one way police departments are responding to the problem, so we'll see if it results in a decreased number of incidence.

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