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Frustrated LAPD might keep celebrity swatting cases secret

April 11, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein

Hit with a recent wave of celebrity "swatting incidents," Los Angeles police officials are meeting Thursday to consider possible countermeasures including whether to no longer publicly comment on such incidents.

In the last several months, there have been over a dozen prank swatting calls to police, the majority of them in areas patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department but also in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department jurisdiction.

Sources familiar with the discussions say authorities are concerned that publicizing individual incidents not only affects the privacy of celebrities, it could be encouraging more swatting as a result of drawing international media attention.

PHOTOS: Celebrity 'swatting' targets

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith would not discuss specifics of the ongoing investigations but said investigators from multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies were "actively working on all the cases."

Swatting gets its name from the tactical response by police that accompanies the contacts, which typically states there an armed intruder is inside the celebrity's home and someone has been wounded.

The contacts are made via text, phone or a computer-generated report and are difficult to investigate because suspects are able to disguise their contacts through multiple computer servers and other technological means. While the targeted celebrity is usually not home, police say confusion can injure responding officers or innocent people working or staying at the celebrity's home who may be injured because they do not immediately comply with police commands.

Most of the celebrity calls have come this year and authorities say that since last year there has been a huge upswing in 'swatting'

Miley Cryus was the first major publicized case last July. That was followed by a wave of calls targeting Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, Tom Cruise, Simon Cowell and the Kardashian family.

The LAPD arrested a 12-year-old boy in connection with the Bieber and Kutcher incidents. He eventually received a two-year sentence but the publicity surrounding his arrest and prosecution appeared to do little to stop the celebrity swatters.

Police were called to the Playboy Mansion and home of actor-director Clint Eastwood. Then last week, there was another flurry of swatting pranks against P. Diddy, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, comedian Russell Brand and entertainment personality Ryan Seacrest.

The prank came hours after the radio host spoke to Brand, whose Hollywood Hills home was hit Monday.

“'Swatting,' I don’t like the word very much. Swatting, obviously what you do to insects or a passing bottom,” Brand joked to Seacrest on his morning radio show on KISS-FM (102.7). “If all swatting attacks are this unnoticeable, I’m ready for war because I didn’t even know it had happened. I still don’t know what a swatting attack is.”

ALSO:

Ryan Seacrest is latest celebrity 'swatting' victim

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Bank robbers cut into roofs, steal $6 million, authorities say

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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