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High number of ‘swatting’ calls probed

LOS ANGELES, April 7 (UPI) — Los Angeles police said they are investigating last week’s particularly large number of “swatting” calls — hoax 911 calls — involving celebrities’ homes.

The residences of Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and Sean Combs were targeted by swatting last week, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

On Wednesday, a caller falsely reported an attack at Combs’ Toluca Lake home, and then on Thursday, a caller said a person had been shot at Rihanna’s Pacific Palisades residence. Police said there was nothing amiss at either home.

Police responded Friday afternoon to a report of shots fired at Timberlake’s Hollywood Hills residence and two hours later to Gomez’s Sherman Oaks home after a caller said someone had been killed inside the home and there was a threat to burn down the house, said Detective Gus Villanueva. Again, no usual activity was discovered.

The Times reported it’s unclear whether the calls are related.

Law enforcement officials said such calls, with police have dealt with for some time, are intended as a prank to bring SWAT officers to the scene of a celebrity’s residence. But the swatting calls are increasingly problematic as they could interfere with police focus on real crimes and could result in injuries.

Police sources said the LAPD sources said the department is attempting to crack down on swatting by training dispatchers to identify possible crank calls.

California lawmakers are considering tougher swatting penalties, the Times reported.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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