ALBERTON, P.E.I. – An Alberton resident says he didn’t make much of it at first when he saw police cars with lights flashing parked at two locations near his home last week.
By the time he answered a phone call, though, he was already wondering whether he might have been swatted.
The voice on the other end of the line was an RCMP officer responding to a phoned-in firearms complaint.
The resident, whom the Journal Pioneer is not naming to protect his identity, said he advised the officer that he suspected he was the victim of swatting and he immediately stepped outside with his hands raised. Officers conducted a search of his home and determined there was no actual threat.
Police officers from East and West Prince RCMP detachments as well as a joint forces unit had converged on the man’s street after receiving the firearms complaint. Officers have since determined that the information was false.
The resident is a video gamer who has a large online following. He explained to the Journal Pioneer that such prank calls are not uncommon in his profession. The objective of the prank, he suggested, is to have police barge in during the gamer’s live broadcast. He was offline when the March 15 incident transpired, but is concerned such incidents might happen again, thus his interest in keeping his name and address out of the story.
RCMP spokesman, Staff Sergeant Kevin Baillie, said police have to respond as if the threat is real.
“Unfortunately, these calls do put people at risk,” he said.
He noted there have been a number of cases, particularly in the U.S., where people have defended their house not knowing who’s arriving, which leads to the potential of officers discharging their firearms in response to a perceived threat.
“They are very high-risk situations,” he said, explaining officers would generally be in a hurry to respond when there is a perception that someone is in danger and increasing the risk to everyone using the road.
“It is a big diversion of resources somewhere they are not required,” Baillie acknowledged.
The officer said the RCMP generally tries to make contact with someone in the residence, but if officers are not able to determine the authenticity of the threat, there is potential that forced entry will be deemed necessary.
Baillie said the court system generally takes such prank calls seriously when persons are apprehended. Police are still investigating the origin of the March 15 call.
While the officer suggested such calls are rare in Canada, he recommended individuals take steps to protect their privacy.
The resident who was pranked said he always guarded his privacy when online but has removed even more information since the March 15 incident.