CALGARY — Two men have been charged with public mischief for allegedly making prank calls to police about crimes and medical emergencies.
Investigators in Calgary believe one of the men made 23 swatting calls in the city’s downtown between June 4 and July 4.
They suspect he is responsible for another eight swatting calls as well as for 55 calls to 911, although those calls did not result in charges.
“The offender would make complaints about a crime that he was witnessing involving a weapon or talking about a medical emergency,” Staff Sgt. Jodi Gach said Wednesday. “What we do know is the offender was in a position where he could observe police responding to the area and provide enough information that we knew he was observing.”
Police estimate the calls cost $180,000 in officer hours.
Zachary James Jakeman, 25, is charged with 35 offences related to public mischief and making a false statement.
Swatting refers to someone reporting false emergencies to get a large number of police officers, particularly SWAT teams, to respond to specific locations.
“In all cases the offender has a need that they require to be met. In some cases it could be about an infatuation with the police and seeing police response,” Gach said.
“In some cases it could be about resentment toward police and wanting to get back at police. In other cases it could be a disgruntled employee trying to sabotage someone within a company.”
Gach said another unrelated case last month involved multiple swatting calls about a gunman in a corporate highrise, which caused about 50 employees to hide or flee from the building.
“It was treated as an active assailant with a firearm. As the police were all responding, you (could) see people either hiding underneath things or fleeing from the building at a regular day at work,” she said.
Shing Lam, 31, is charged with making a false statement and public mischief.
Gach said the calls are taking a toll on officers who have to approach every one as if it were legitimate.
“Patrol members attend each call knowing they’re being observed at the time, not knowing what the motivation of the offender was,” she said.
“Are they trying to set up a police shooting? Are they just infatuated by police? Not knowing those things becomes very uncomfortable.”