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Alexandria City Council cracking down on swatting with ordinance to seek reimbursement

Police at Charles Barrett Elementary School (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria’s been hit with a series of swatting calls recently and the city is eyeing new legislation that could make perpetrators literally pay for it.

A proposed section of the city code, which Mayor Justin Wilson said takes advantage of authority granted by the state, would allow the City Manager or a designee to bill a flat fee after “determining the reasonable expense of an appropriate emergency response.”

According to the new section:

The proposed ordinance authorizes the City to collect reimbursement of up to $2,500 from an individual(s) responsible for certain reports of a false emergency. An individual can only be liable for such costs if they are convicted of a violation of certain Virginia laws related to terrorism hoaxes, bomb threats, malicious activation of fire alarms, and certain false communications of emergencies… The costs that will be subject to reimbursement would include all costs of providing law-enforcement, firefighting, and emergency medical services. These costs may be calculated by either billing a flat fee or using a minute-by-minute accounting of the actual costs incurred.

The section notes that the fee cannot exceed $2,500 in aggregate.

The proposal comes after a rash of swatting calls, from calls at residences in the city to swatting calls that shut down two local elementary schools.

The new section is scheduled for first reading at a meeting tonight (Tuesday) before going to a public hearing and final passage on Saturday, Feb. 24.

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