01STOCK_JANESVILLE_POLICE02

JANESVILLE

Police suspect someone made a false report Thursday morning, resulting in police surrounding a home in the 400 block of Harding Street at 8:05 a.m.

The practice of making such calls to harass someone is known as swatting, because SWAT teams are often called.

Officers were called for a report of a man and woman involved in a disturbance with a gun being seen, according to a police news release.

Officers tried several times to contact those inside the residence with no response. Officers then entered the residence and found two occupants inside, Sgt. Chad Pearson said.

No gun was found, and the occupants said there was no disturbance, according to the release.

The occupants said they have been harassed, and police said information gathered indicate they had responded to a swatting call.

One of the residents had received threatening text messages and phone calls from a former romantic partner, including a message indicating the former partner would call the police on one of the residents, Pearson said.

Swatting calls often are motivated by retaliation or made by people who want to stoke fear in a community, Pearson said.

The resident’s former partner is considered a suspect, but no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, he said.

Police believed the phone call was fake because the residents did not recognize the phone number, and nobody in the residence recognized the name the caller gave to 911 operators, Pearson said.

The call came from another city in the state, he said.

Callers sometimes use a process police dub “computer spoofing” to place a phone call from a computer and make it look like it’s from a different phone number, Pearson said.

It’s a similar strategy spam callers use to make their phone numbers look local, said Kathy Sukus, director of the Rock County 911 Communications Center.

Fake calls to police are serious offenses that create fear and tie up resources that could be used to help people in real danger, Pearson said.

About 10 officers were called to Harding Street, which “put a dent in resources,” he said. Some swatting calls result in SWAT and tactical teams being called in with heavy weaponry.

Sukus said operators have to take every 911 call seriously. Operators might suspect a call is fake, but they have to take every call at face value in case it is a real emergency, she said.

Swatting calls are fairly rare in Rock County. Pearson and Sukus could recall only a couple of swatting calls in the area and said it has been a couple of years since the last one happened.

Pearson recalled a 2014 incident in which police received a fake call reporting that a man had shot his mother and was holding his brother hostage at a duplex on Racine Street.

The 911 Communications Center receives prank calls every year, but not all result in a significant police presence. The calls are taken seriously, and the communications center works with police to identify prank callers, Sukus said.