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Lawmakers in Madison work to make swatting a felony

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Lawmakers in Madison are working to make swatting a felony. 

Swatting is reporting a fake emergency to police. Currently there are no laws that specifically target swatting calls, and people caught making them usually end up only paying a fine. Lawmakers at the Capitol want to change that.

In April of this year, the normally quiet community of Hartland became the center of a heavy law enforcement response for what was thought to be an emergency at a home across from an elementary school. It turned out to be a phony call. 

"Was called in as a prank, but could've had some serious safety issues because of the nature of the call that they made," said Hartland Police Chief Torin Misko. 

He says these types of calls not only drain law enforcement resources, but also put innocent people in danger. He's in support of a bill to create harsher penalties. 

"I do think it's something the Legislature should take up as an issue, because it does cause an unnecessary law enforcement emergency response, and that also puts the community in large in danger," he said. 

Representative Cindi Duchow, whose district includes Hartland, wants to strengthen penalties for those who commit swatting calls. 

The bill she's helping introduce makes swatting calls a felony instead of a misdemeanor, with a sentence of up to six years in prison if someone is hurt as a result of it. "This actually brings it in line with what it is to call or text in a bomb threat," she said. Duchow hopes the new penalties will deter people from making swatting calls and causing fear and danger as it happened in her own district this year. 

"I thought, how could this happen in our own backyard, 'cause you tend to think of these things not in my backyard," Rep. Duchow (R-Town of Delafield) said. "So these things do come to our neighborhoods, so this just makes us a little bit more prepared, and it gives law enforcement another tool."

Duchow says she expects bipartisan support on this bill.

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