NEWS

Possible 'swatting' call results in massive police response in Surrey

06/03/2015 10:05 EDT | Updated 06/03/2016 05:59 EDT
Police are investigating a false report of shots fired in South Surrey, B.C. that forced a precautionary lockdown of two nearby schools and a public building on Wednesday.

Officials say an unidentified caller contacted 911 around noon to report a domestic assault involving gunfire at a home on the 14600-block of 15A Avenue in South Surrey.

Lockdown measures were initiated at nearby H.T. Thrift Elementary, Semiahmoo Senior Secondary, and the South Surrey Indoor Pool as dozens of police officers — including the Integrated Emergency Response Team and Police Dog Services — responded to the scene.

Upon arrival, they say, they found a lone female who was "distraught" and "shocked" to see police gathering outside her house.

"What we discovered was this was a fictitious prank call and our officers are investigating the origins of that call at this time," said Surrey RCMP Insp. Keith Bramhill. 

"It's safe to say that the community is safe and there is no imminent danger whatsoever to the public."

When asked whether this was a "swatting" call — so called because it is intended call out SWAT teams or similar under false pretences — Bramhill said he wouldn't label it that way but others might.

​"What we're saying is it's an unsubstantiated call for service and, when investigated properly, it's really a public mischief," he told CBC News.

Bramhill says police are now looking for the caller, and anyone else with information about the incident.

"Our investigators will look at the origins of the call ... and track the call and the origins of the phone and where it came from and so forth."

'Swatting' sweeps North America

"Swatting" has become a popular prank in recent years.

Police across North America have been tricked into dispatching emergency response and SWAT teams to unsuspecting locations after receiving fake reports of crimes or threats.

Last December, a 17-year-old Coquitlam, B.C. boy was arrested after he allegedly phoned police in Florida and threatened to "shoot everyone" at a local high school. He is also accused of phoning in a fake bomb threat and falsely reporting a homicide.

In 2011, police surrounded the home of an unsuspecting Langley, B.C. family after someone reported that several people inside had been murdered and others were being held hostage.

Police later said the call appeared to have come from cell phone in California.

Officials say "swatting" constitutes public mischief and can result in a sentence of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.

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