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Tennessee law aims to crack down on false reports or swatting calls

From NewsChannel 9: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says local, state and federal authorities continue to jointly investigate the source of several hoax calls concerning Tennessee schools last week.


An increased number of false reports, also called swatting, has been keeping emergency dispatchers busy across the country, including in our region.


The goal of swatting or false calls is to dispatch a large number of police, like a SWAT team, to a particular address or location.


Sen. Jon Lundberg told News 5 there’s laws in place in Tennessee to crack down on those calls.


“It becomes a Class C felony if somebody makes a police report involving a potential bombing or shooting that they know, or reasonably believe is false,” said Lundberg.

Adding it carries a three to 15 year sentence, and it’s rare for those calls to happen.


“I think in part, because the penalties are so severe in Tennessee,” said Lundberg.

He says if the suspect or suspects in the hoax threats is identified, they could be charged with multiple felonies, assuming it was the same individual making threats at several Tennessee schools.


News 5 asked: Why is a law like this so important in hoping to cut down on the number of hoax calls that may come in?


“For this very thing, for exactly what happened,” answered Lundberg. “You put fear in the minds of kids, you put fear in the minds of parents, extreme trauma — you put frankly, lives on the line and police were called.”

In Bristol, Tennessee, police quickly responded to the hoax threat last week at Tennessee High, and while on site, learned it was part of a larger event.


“We started to receive calls that there were multiple calls across the state that had went out,” said Chief Matt Austin, of the Bristol, Tennessee Police Department.

Telling News 5 that the department has trained for incidents that may require a large manpower response.


“The rest of the city was still safe as we had tremendous resources there at the school, but we plan for those things,” added Austin. “We have contingency plans to make sure that we are covered in those areas.”

Tennessee Code 39-16-502 — False Reports reads as follows:

  • (a) It is unlawful for any person to:
  • (1) Initiate a report or statement to a law enforcement officer concerning an offense or incident within the officer’s concern knowing that:
  • (A) The offense or incident reported did not occur;
  • (B) The person has no information relating to the offense or incident reported; or
  • (C) The information relating to the offense reported is false; or
  • (2) Make a report or statement in response to a legitimate inquiry by a law enforcement officer concerning a material fact about an offense or incident within the officer’s concern, knowing that the report or statement is false and with the intent to obstruct or hinder the officer from:
  • (A) Preventing the offense or incident from occurring or continuing to occur; or
  • (B) Apprehending or locating another person suspected of committing an offense; or
  • (3) Intentionally initiate or circulate a report of a past, present, or impending bombing, fire or other emergency, knowing that the report is false or baseless and knowing:
  • (A) It will cause action of any sort by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with those emergencies;
  • (B) It will place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
  • (C) It will prevent or interrupt the occupation of any building, place of assembly, form of conveyance, or any other place to which the public has access.
  • (b) (1) A violation of subdivision (a) (1) or (a) (2) is a Class D felony
  • (2) A violation of subdivision (a) (3) is a Class C felony