Hochul Asks State Police to Investigate Recent Rash of School ‘Swatting’ Calls

Photos by Mike Groll, courtesy of the Governor’s Office
March 31, 2023 – Albany, NY – Governor Kathy Hochul hosts a meeting with the New York State Police and New York State Education Department on recent “swatting” incidents.

After a second day of widespread “swatting” calls to school districts across New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul reassured parents and educators that the State Police are actively investigating the incidents.

On March 30, a reported 36 “swatting” incidents occurred across New York state, threatening school districts with the potential of an active shooter on site, or the potential for a shooter to soon arrive. These threats were made with the goal of luring law enforcement, particularly SWAT teams and other rapid-response teams, into responding and arriving at the scene.

The following day, Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted a meeting alongside Education Commissioner Betty Rosa, the Head of the State Police, Steve Nigrelli, and the head of the New York State United Teachers, Andy Pallotta, to discuss the response to these incidents.

And then on Tuesday, April 4, more than 50 school districts across New York received a new wave of “swatting” threats, including schools in Central New York, Long Island, the Southern Tier and the North Country.

“I want to reassure parents that their children are safe at school – swatting threats are false and intended to cause panic and scare students, teachers and families,” Hochul said.

“Since the first round of swatting incidents occurred last week, State Police has been working closely with the State Education Department, county leadership and local school boards to provide support and any necessary resources to address these incidents. My top priority will always be the safety of New Yorkers.”

The first wave of swatting calls in New York came just three days after the March 27 shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville in which three students, a teacher, a custodian and the head of the school were all killed.

“It causes trauma among teachers, children, and parents. It causes chaos, especially after this week and what our nation had to witness — another mass shooting in a children’s school,” Hochul said. 

In her meeting with the State Police and NYSUT, Hochul stressed the importance of New York state’s Red Flag Law, which “prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm.

“If someone sees or becomes aware of someone, either online or in-person, that an individual could cause harm to themselves or others, they have an avenue,” said Hochul. “They can alert law enforcement, and someone can identify whether or not the person involved has access to guns at home, or whether they plan on purchasing guns, and stop that from happening.”

Since being enacted following the 2022 Buffalo shooting, Hochul says there have been more than 7,060 extreme risk orders of protection issues.

“I want to make sure that all teachers and people in the education system are familiar with how [the Red Flag Law] works,” said Hochul, “because I’d rather be in the business of preventing tragedies than solving crimes and mass shootings afterward.”

The swatting threats were highly concentrated in the Hudson Valley, Western New York, and the Capital Region, prompting New York State Police to respond to 226 schools.

On March 30, multiple school districts in the Capital Region went into lockdown in response to false active shooter reporters. Upstate districts such as Troy, Saratoga Springs, East Greenbush, and Schodack were also pushed to act on these unfounded reports, furthering the reach of the hoax.

State Police spokesperson Beau Duffy said “swatting calls Thursday have been statewide, reaching as far west Lockport and Rochester, as far north as Plattsburgh and Potsdam, and as far south as the Hudson Valley and Long Island.”

According to Local Syracuse News, automated calls to Westhill High School and Cicero-North Syracuse High School were traced to Canada, backing the FBI’s claim that the wave of threats may be coming from outside the United States.

Photo by Mike Groll, Office of the Governor

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said this nationwide hoax was bigger than a twisted prank, considering some threats consisted of knowledge of school layouts, boosting their credibility. “This is something deeper and a lot darker,” he told the Journal News.

“What I want parents to know [is] that we are taking every single incident very seriously. We treat it as if it’s real, but the reality is that this is meant to disrupt and cause chaos in our school system and in society,” said Hochul. “It is incredibly stressful on our families at this time, and there’s nothing we want more than to restore some sense of common normalcy for our kids who’ve been through so much over the last few years.”

In an attempt to regain “normalcy” in the New York school system, Hochul recently announced heightened monitoring in schools, and also worked alongside the New York State Police and State Education Department to issue a letter to school leaders across the state, detailing safety measures and plans for preparedness.

“I have directed the New York State Police to investigate these threats and work closely with all levels of law enforcement to identify the perpetrators, hold them accountable, and restore the sense of safety and security our children deserve,” said Hochul in an April 4 statement on the latest swatting wave. “State Police have been working closely with the State Education Department, county leadership, and local school boards to provide support and any necessary resources to address these incidents. My top priority will always be the safety of New Yorkers.”