Officials: Big tech improvements to 911 could increase swatting calls

The new system, Next Generation 911, will allow people to send emergency information as if they are posting to social media


By PoliceOne Staff

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — An upcoming technological improvement could mean an increase in “swatting” 911 calls, according to officials.

NPR reported that a new system in the works, Next Generation 911, gives callers the ability to send information to emergency centers with the same ease as if they were posting to social media.

An FBI SWAT team arrives at the scene of a fatal shooting at the University of California, Los Angeles, Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
An FBI SWAT team arrives at the scene of a fatal shooting at the University of California, Los Angeles, Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

"It gives us the ability to access 911 using the same voice, video, text and data applications that we're all used to using on smartphones today," National Emergency Number Association member Trey Forgerty said.

However, police said the internet-based technology could make it easier for swatting calls (false reporting to elicit a response) to occur.

"You could conceivably have a video that is fabricated and is sent into a 911 dispatch center that appears to be one thing, when in fact it is something quite different," Police Executive Research Forum head Chuck Wexler said.

Fairfax County, Va. Police Chief Edwin Roessler said the department is working hard to avoid falling victim to the prank calls and is concerned that the new system will make it more difficult.

"Unfortunately, there's evil people out there that continue to do this and the more we embrace that technology, the more risk we have," he said.

Police said dispatchers must become trained on how to quickly analyze a photo, video or text, and Fogerty said designers are working on a way to flag suspicious videos and other content, as well as an alternative caller ID.

"That would make it much more difficult for callers to fake or spoof a call from a local jurisdiction or from a phone number that looks like it's from that jurisdiction," Fogerty said.

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