Town Supervisor responds to swatting: “an expensive joke that wasn’t funny”


Brandon Cunningham/Snap Judgement Photo

SWAT teams from across Westchester county respond to a call from a Dobbs Ferry residence on Myrtle Ave. The call turned out to be a “swatting”, or prank call, incident, per police.

Annie Rubinson, News Lead Editor

A Greenburgh Town board meeting was interrupted Tuesday when Town Supervisor Paul Feiner received an email from The Journal News. Police officers had assembled to respond to a shooter threat, and people were scared, they said. An hour later, after the residents of the home in question were safely extracted and debriefed by the local police, Feiner discovered that the 911 call was a hoax. 

In a press release by the Dobbs Ferry Police Department, the incident was referred to as “indicative of a potential ‘swatting’ type incident.” Swatting is a criminal harassment tactic, often consisting of a prank call to emergency services, in order to draw a significant police response to an address. 

“This was an expensive joke that was not funny,” Feiner said, adding that he thinks the department should be reimbursed for the expenses of responding to the call. These expenses include, but are not limited to, the 15 Greenburgh police officers on the scene (as well as several other Dobbs Ferry and county officers), many of whom were working overtime. 

Upon receiving news of the incident, Feiner said his team went into crisis mode.

“We had to treat it as though it was an urgent action because you never know,” he said. He cited the 2019 shooting that occurred at an Ardsley motel, in which the suspect opened fire on police officers before he was shot and killed. 

Despite this, Feiner said swatting incidents are very uncommon. The most recent was a false bomb threat that led to the evacuation of a Tarrytown office building roughly a decade ago, he added. Tuesday was the first instance in his career in which a false report was filed about a residence. 

He added that this incident was also unusual in that the active media presence on the scene provided him with a more direct line of communication with the public than in previous cases. He explained that because he was at a town board meeting and communicating with the police chief, he was able to get information as the incident was occurring and then immediately communicate with residents. 

“It became public knowledge much earlier than it normally would have,” he said, adding that this was a positive outcome as it helped passersby and other residents remain calm. 

“When people are really scared, it’s nice to be able to provide some reassurance,” he said. 

Feiner commended the Greenburgh and Dobbs Ferry Police Departments on their handling of the situation. The identity of the false caller is currently under investigation by the Dobbs Ferry Police Department. 

“The person who committed this act should be brought to justice,” he said.