Schools across New York have been contending with so-called "swatting" incidents: A phone call is made warning about violence, activating the police and evacuating classrooms. State lawmakers like Republican state Sen. Jim Tedisco this week proposed measures meant to hold perpatrators accountable.
In the days after dozens of schools around New York received hoax threats of violence, state lawmakers are proposing measures meant to boost safety for kids and teachers.
"I think it shows them that we care," Tedisco said on Thursday. "We know the essence of it. We don't have to have a child in school being frightened by this."
The measure backed by Tedisco and Republicans in the state Senate would make swatting, currently a misdemeanor, a felony criminal charge in New York. The hope, he says, is to get federal officials involved as well.
"That's the essence of the bill — try to get more assets from the FBI, get them involved, but also send the message: You're a terrorist and you're going to go to jail for four years," he said.
The proposal is one of several measures proposed this week by lawmakers in response to the swatting incidents — ranging from training for school guards to expanding criminal charges for making threats against targets like schools.
A bipartisan bill previously introduced by Republican Sen. Joe Griffo and Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon would create two new sets of crimes: making a threat of mass violence a felony with a $35,000 fine and three-year prison sentence. A second-degree charge for a person under 18 would lead to the same fine, along with 10 days in a juvenile detention facilities.
Democratic state Sen. Monica Martinez backed a bill calling for school-specific security training for guards.
Democratic Assemblywoman Monica Wallace pointed to a law already on the books to handle the issue, approved in the wake of another tragedy in New York a year ago: The Buffalo mass shooting at a Tops supermarket.
"It's a way to make sure that people are held accountable for harm that they caused by making those threats," he said.
Wallace's created a crime of making a threat of mass harm as a misdemeanor, which was signed into law a month after the Buffalo massacre in which the gunman left a racist screed online and targeted Black shoppers at the store.
"It's absolutely concerning," she said. "You're talking about sending in individuals thinking that there's a mass shooter into a school and you're creating a danger where none existed."
Gov. Kathy Hochul, meanwhile, says state officials are still investigating. But finding the perpetrator may be difficult as law enforcement and homeland security officials believe the calls are coming from sources outside the country.
"It's very hard to trace but I assure you as soon as we find a culprit we'll do everything we can to stop these swatting incidents from occurring," she said.