Schumer wants feds more involved in cracking down on hoax calls at schools

Posted 6 April 2023 at 6:51 am

220 schools, including Lyndonville and Medina, targeted with ‘swatting calls’ in past week, forcing police response

Provided photo: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer spoke at Brockport on Wednesday and announced a three-point plan for the federal government to target perpetrators of false calls at schools, claiming there will be a mass shooting.

Press Release, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer

BROCKPORT – Standing at Brockport High School, after a terrifying wave of 36 “swatting” incidents across New York falsely reporting a mass shooting spurred police to respond to 226 schools, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he is demanding the Federal Bureau of Investigation launch a full investigation into this latest unprecedented wave and launching his push for more resources to crack down on “swatting.”

Schumer said these hoax calls directly hit both Brighton, Brockport High Schools, and most recently Spencerport Schools in Monroe County, terrifying students, teachers, and parents, and that the feds need to step up to hold criminals accountable and curb attacks like this. (In Orleans County, Medina and Lyndonville received the calls.)

First, Schumer revealed that he has personally called and written to the FBI to emphasize the need for a full investigation working with New York State Police to get answers and hold those responsible accountable.

Second, the senator said that we need to supercharge our federal cyber investigative capabilities to stop threats like this, and said he is now launching a push for over $10 million for the FBI to specifically tackle the growing problem of swatting.

Third, Schumer said with this style of attack growing, including potentially from foreign actors, it is imperative that the FBI start tracking “swatting” incidents as its own crime and issue a report so that the dangers and pervasiveness of these attacks can be properly assessed so they can be curbed going forward.

“These swatting attacks are dangerous, disturbing and downright terrifying for our Rochester students, teachers and parents,” he said in Brockport. “We need all federal hands on deck to support local law enforcement and hold perpetrators of these disturbing hoax calls accountable, which is why I personally called the FBI to say this issue needs to be a top priority and I am pushing for more funding and data to counter unique threats like this.”

Schumer explained that “swatting” has been a growing trend in recent years in which a phone call or false report is made to unsuspecting resident’s home, a school, or other public place in order to evoke a police or SWAT team response.

On the morning of Thursday, March 30, 2023, New York saw an unprecedented series of swatting attacks leading to police having to respond to over 220 K-12 schools across the state after they received false reports of a mass shooting.

In Monroe County, Brockport and Brighton were both forced into lockdown with students and staff sheltering in place until law enforcement confirmed the threats were not credible. For Brockport, students and staff were in lock-down for close to an hour, not only disrupting the school day but also causing panic and emotional turmoil throughout the school.

“The ongoing swatting threats are dangerous, terroristic and causing emotional trauma in our schools,” said NYSUT Board member Andrew Jordan. “We join Senator Schumer in his call to bring the full weight of the federal government into investigating and cracking down on attacks like these. Ensuring students and educators are safe in school is, and always will be, our top priority.”

Schumer said these false alerts are not only terrifying for the victims, but they can also cost law enforcement thousands of dollars, delay response to actual emergencies, and tragically have even resulted in injury or death of innocent bystanders. In 2014, on Long Island, one fake swatting bomb threat ended up costing police nearly $100,000.

The threat in Brockport was responded to by three police departments, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Brockport Police Department, and Campus police from next-door SUNY Brockport, wasting the time and resources of all three departments as they worked expeditiously to respond and ensure the safety of students and staff.

 The senator said these attacks are a serious threat to the safety of our students and schools and that is why he is calling on the FBI to launch a full investigation. Schumer explained New York State Police and local law enforcement are already working alongside the FBI to investigate the incident on March 30th. With public reporting, however, that this string of “swatting” hoaxes may have come from outside the U.S. and similar incidents taking place in multiple other states in the same week, it is imperative that a broad investigation be completed with all due speed to determine the origins and any linkages between these attacks.

“The bottom line is that Americans need to know who is committing these attacks and ensuring that criminals know that if they commit these heinous acts that they will be held accountable is one of the strongest deterrents,” Schumer said. “That starts with making sure the FBI has the resources it needs bring people to justice swiftly and that the data is being collected to curb this unique disturbing trend.”