Recent swatting incidents have seen hoax callers pretending to be members of the House or providing lawmakers’ home addresses to law enforcement officials.
Congressional security officials are working to address a surge in swatting incidents among House members after multiple lawmakers had law enforcement teams called to their residences in recent months, wasting valuable police time and resources.
Swatting involves individuals or groups making hoax calls to law enforcement officials claiming there is some kind of emergency or violent crime taking place in an attempt to make police dispatch a large number of armed police officers, typically tactical units, to a particular address.
A rise in such incidents across the United States—which draws police resources away from real crimes—is currently being investigated by the FBI.
In his letter, Mr. McFarland said recent incidents have seen hoax callers pretending to be members of the House or providing lawmakers’ home addresses to law enforcement officials.
The House Sergeant at Arms went on to provide detailed instructions to lawmakers on what to do in cases of a swatting incident, including contacting the Sergeant at Arms Police Services Division to put in place a plan and reporting any suspicious activity or swatting incidents to Capitol Police.
Lawmakers Targeted in Swatting Attacks
Mr. McFarland also said his office “will be planning a virtual conference to discuss swatting with congressional staff” and that he will also be “personally on hand” at upcoming retreats to discuss security matters with spouses.
“We will continue to develop initiatives similar to the spouse security handbook issued last year and keep you informed and up to date on important security topics,” he concluded the letter. “As always, your safety and the safety of your family is my top priority.”
Mr. McFarland’s letter comes shortly after House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said his home was “swatted” over the weekend, with police responding after the bogus 911 call.
‘No One Deserves This’
Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) also said this week that she had been the victim of a swatting incident, which saw local police sent to her home while she was away in Washington.
“It is truly alarming that someone would attempt to harass or intimidate me in this way, while also forcing law enforcement to devote resources unnecessarily. No one deserves this, and it puts so many people at real risk, including family members, neighbors, law enforcement, and others,” the Democrat said.
The measure, known as the “Preserving Safe Communities by Ending Swatting Act,” includes a punishment of up to 20 years in prison if someone is hurt as a result of a swatting attack.
Earlier this week, presidential candidate Nikki Haley also revealed her home in South Carolina was targeted in a hoax call last month while her elderly parents were at home, calling it an “awful situation.”
The Republican challenger also suggested that her home had been swatted before.
Ms. Haley told the show that the latest incident “goes to show the chaos that’s surrounding our country right now.”
None of the swatting incidents reported by lawmakers or Ms. Haley has resulted in injuries.