Seattle police launch opt-in registry system to help prevent swatting

A new opt-in registry system is being launched by Seattle police department in an effort to combat the phenomenon of swatting, a criminal harassment tactic whereby a false emergency report is submitted about the target, with the intent of triggering an armed police unit showing up at the victim’s door.

While in theory anyone can be a victim of swatting, it’s a phenomenon particular to the tech and games industry. Numerous people have been injured because of swatting, and last year streamer Andrew Finch was fatally shot by a police officer in Wichita (the alleged perpetrator of the hoax call, Tyler Barriss, was arrested and is currently being held without bail on numerous charges).

In a blog post on the Seattle government website, Seattle Chief of Police Carmen Best wrote, “The Seattle Police Department has received requests to create a registry where residents concerned about swatting can communicate those concerns to their local 911 Center. Our challenge was to move forward and implement an improved business process while protecting the privacy of the community we serve.”

The initiative is based upon an early project known as SMART 911, which enabled US citizens to create a web-based profile that listed specific medical conditions, such as being deaf or suffering from certain allergies. This enabled emergency responders to be aware of the specific needs of the person in distress while in transit, and tailor their response accordingly.

Yet as Best states, “SMART 911 did not meet the criteria for our solution, since profile data is triggered by calling 911 from a registered phone number rather than associated to a registered address.”

Hence, the Seattle police has created Rave Facility, a solution that is “designed as a SMART 911 counterpart for commercial properties.”

Chief Best describes how it works: “A 911 call taker receives a report of a critical incident. While ensuring first responders are dispatched to that call for service as quickly as possible, the call taker will simultaneously check for whether or not swatting concerns have been registered at that address. If swatting concerns have been registered, this information will be shared with responding officers, who will still proceed to the call. If no location profile exists, officers will still continue to the call.”

It's worth noting that this new initiative came in response to a specific appeal by a Seattle citizen for the SPD to find a better way of dealing with instances of swatting. Nonetheless, it’s a positive response from the SPD, one that will hopefully reduce the instances of injury and deaths on account of these hoax calls. Anyone living in the Seattle area who is concerned about being a victim of swatting can opt into Rave Facility here.