DES MOINES — Yesterday, about two dozen school districts across Iowa – including the Oskaloosa and Ottumwa school districts – received “swatting calls” that referend an alleged active shooter scenario. According to Department of Public Safety officials, the first swatting call originated in Clinton County at approximately 8:00 a.m., and the last call was received at 10:30 a.m. in Creston. Officials estimate that approximately 30 calls were received by local law enforcement agencies.
A “swatting call” refers to a false claim intended to trigger an immediate and widespread law enforcement deployment or emergency service response to a specific location. Hoax reports such as the ones experienced yesterday commonly consist of claims of serious violent attacks, such as a bomb threat, active shooter, and/or a hostage situation.
Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan K. Bayens said these false reports are a tactic intended to illicit a large-scale law enforcement response. “The design of it is to create confusion and chaos. It’s designed to draw a large law enforcement presence to a school even though there is no active threat. And by all accounts and for all intents and purposes, it appears thus far that is what Iowa experienced today.”
Bayens said yesterday’s swatting calls impacted the following communities:
• Cedar Rapids
• North Liberty
• Iowa City (multiple schools)
• Cerro Gordo County
• Story County
• Lee County (multiple schools)
• Mason City
• Charles City
• Clear Lake
• Des Moines
• North Liberty
Immediately after receiving these calls, local law enforcement and school officials reported all relevant information to the Department’s Division of Intelligence and Fusion Center, which then re-disseminated the information to local law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Bayens said this proactive information sharing allows schools and law enforcement to better determine their response protocols should one of their schools receive a similar call. “By reporting these calls to us, we can quickly inform our school and law enforcement partners, which in this case may have impacted the nature of their response and stemmed the flow of more calls to other communities,” Bayens said.
The Department is continuing to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and identify the caller. Bayens said the initial information leads investigators to believe the calls are similar in nature and likely originated from a single source.
State school safety officials and Governor Kim Reynolds were able to quickly inform the public about the swatting calls as part of a scheduled press conference and launch of a new school safety app called Safe+Sound Iowa. The app was made available to all public school districts and accredited non-public schools yesterday. Parents, students, and community members can anonymously report any tips to law enforcement through dps.iowa.gov/SafeandSoundIowa, downloading the free Safe+Sound Iowa app, or by calling 800-224-6018.