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Moriarty: Islamic Center Incident Latest Example of Need for Governor to Sign Bill Cracking Down on Swatting

(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Paul Moriarty said Thursday morning’s apparent swatting hoax at the Islamic Center of Passaic County was further evidence of the need for Gov. Christie to sign his bill upgrading penalties for the crime of creating a false public alarm.
“The state of New Jersey needs to send a strong message to swatters that when we catch you, you’re going to jail,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “The governor can send that message by signing this bill, as soon as possible.”
The bill (A-4375) cleared the Legislature on Monday.
The FBI describes “swatting” as making a hoax call to 9-1-1 to draw a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team. The individuals who engage in this activity, many of whom are teens and twenty-somethings with ties to the online gaming community, use technology to make it appear that the emergency call is coming from the victim’s phone. The FBI notes that sometimes swatting is done for revenge, sometimes as a prank, but either way, it is a serious crime that has potentially dangerous consequences.
The legislation was prompted by a string of recent hoax incidents in New Jersey that have drawn large-scale law enforcement responses.
“It’s time to send a message that this is not going to be treated lightly,” Moriarty said. “The Legislature has spoken. It’s time to hear from the governor.”
Moriarty first introduced a bill in November in response to a swatting incident in Millville where a law enforcement team swarmed an innocent family’s house believing a violent altercation was taking place inside. After recent news reports drew attention to his efforts to crack down on the trend, he then became the victim of swatting incidents himself.
The bill would upgrade the crime of false public alarm to a crime of the second degree whenever such an alarm presents a report or warning of an especially dangerous scenario or targets certain places. The bill would also require statewide law enforcement reporting on all incidents of false public alarms.
Under current law, such an act is ordinarily a crime of the third degree, punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. Under the bill, the crime, as upgraded, would be punishable by a term of imprisonment of five to 10 years, a fine of up to $150,000, or both.