SIDNEY — Sidney Police and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office are investigating connected “swatting” calls received Wednesday evening.
Swatting is defined by Wikipedia as a harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service into sending a police and emergency service response team to another person’s address. This is triggered by false reporting a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation, or other alleged incident.
According to a Sidney Police report, police were dispatched on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 7:26 p.m., to a residence in the 1600 block of Holly Place on a false report that warrants inducing panic charges. The caller pretended to be the Holly Place resident, Sidney Police Chief Will Balling said, and told dispatch he had committed a heinous sexual crime, and had someone held hostage at the residence he intended to kill.
Balling said the police department’s Tactical Response Team was notified and put on alert, but was never officially called in. The Sidney Fire Department also responded to standby with Sidney Police. Balling said if the incident would have gone on five minutes longer, the swat team would have been activated.
Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Frye confirmed they also received a report on Wednesday, at 7:49 p.m., from a caller claiming to have two pipe bombs that he was placing at Anna Market IGA on West Main Street in Anna.
Balling said the police department and Sheriff’s Office’s dispatch centers communicated and recognized the calls.
“This came in as a very serious call, several felonies, people possibly very much in harms way, of how the caller reported it. We have to take it very serious at the time. We started off (responding) seriously, almost called in the SWAT team and surrounded the house,” Balling said.
“The one thing that was different with this case is we had a report in the past, similar to this, at this residence, and one of the officers was aware of it. They put two and two together. They had a lot of common sense and said, ‘let’s wait a second on this.’ They were able identify the house, recall that (previous incident), while still taking precautions, and be able to look through the windows and realize, ‘this is not what is being reported,’” Balling explained.
Frye explained the Sheriff’s Office received at least three calls describing different activities each time.
Both law enforcement departments are trying to trace the calls.
Balling said it was an very tense 20 minutes and had potential danger for both the resident, who knows nothing about the call, and law enforcement, who could be harmed by an unsuspecting resident.
“A lot of it typically started with gamers or people of YouTube channel or social media, and that is where we typically see the swatting type of incidents occur,” Balling said.
“(The type of incident) is very expensive, very high risk of danger, and these can’t happen. (These types of calls) are worse than the person randomly yelling fire. Its kind of our new wave kind of bomb threats or false alarms. They can take officers off of the street, firemen away from what they are doing for a situation that they don’t need to be at,” Balling said.
Both incidents are under investigation. Balling said they are trying to track the caller, but have nothing concrete on a person of interest at the moment.
If someone is arrested, they will be charged with inducing panic.
If anyone has any information call Sidney Police at 937-498-2351 or the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at 937-498-1111.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.