Celebrity 'swatting' hoaxes cause concern for law enforcement

latimes 2012-11-28 celebrity hoaxes
LAPD investigates outside actor Ashton Kutcher’s Lake Hollywood residence in October after a text to 911 reported a home invasion robbery. It was a hoax.

Celebrities are no strangers to invasions of privacy, with paparazzi snapping endless photos and websites publishing detailed information about stars' homes, including their street addresses.

But there's a new prank in Hollywood, one that is causing major concerns for stars and law enforcement alike.

"Swatting is a very real problem for those in the public eye," said Blair Berk, a criminal lawyer who has represented stars, including Mel Gibson, Kanye West and Lindsay Lohan. "It is only a matter of time before someone dies because of this stupidity."

Justin Bieber and Simon Cowell are two of the latest high-profile victims of "swatting," a fast-growing phenomenon masterminded by anonymous mischief-makers who alert police to a bogus crime situation, prompting a tactical response — sometimes by SWAT officers — that involves a high-risk search for phantom assailants.

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