‘Swatting’ becoming a financial drain on NJ towns
The surge in "swatting" incidents has continued and law enforcement officials are concerned that the dangerous trend is causing a drain on some municipal budgets.
Denville Police Chief Christopher Wagner, president-elect of the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police said when "swatting" calls are received, police cannot afford to risk not responding, even though they may appear to be hoaxes as multiple false alarms are reported.
"We have to treat all of them like they're real, and that requires a full-on response with additional calls for assistance frequently going out to the county sheriff's office, the prosecutor's office and the State Police as well as EMS, the fire department and even the bomb squad," Wagner said.
He said deploying so many emergency workers is costly.
"It's very expensive for us to roll out all of that equipment and all that manpower to an emergency call like that, although we budget for some unforeseen emergencies, we can't budget for them all," he said.
According to Wagner, if a police department has been forced to deploy resources for multiple swatting events it's going to cause a financial problem.
"If they were going to buy a police car, supplies, equipment, body worn cameras, we could see the denial by our finance department," he said. "They may be told you can't buy that equipment anymore because we blew out our overtime budget and we had to take money from somewhere else to balance it."
So where is this extra money going to come from? According to Bill Dressel, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, you don't have to be a financial wizard to figure it out.
"Unless the money trees start sprouting up on the town hall lawns it' going to be the property taxpayer that's going to have to pick up the cost. With the financial crisis that many towns have been dealing with in recent years, when you start tapping into those limited resources that means that you've either got to raise taxes, or you've got to basically reduce other services to fill in that gap," Wagner said.
He also said swatting will draw law enforcement resources away from other areas, which ultimately can be very costly, and endanger the lives of accident victims or those caught up in a real emergency situations.