POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – It was the type of 911 call police dread the most: a home invasion robbery in progress with armed suspects.
The Pound Ridge Police Department received such a call last month. Someone phoned the Lewisboro Library, claiming they were from Pound Ridge and someone was at their door making threats.
“While the library had them on the phone, they could hear the caller say in the background, ‘What do you want? Why do you have knives?’” Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan said. “The library called 911 at the state police and we all responded.”
The police broke down the door and found the house empty. No one was home.
“I know the woman who lives there and I called her,” Ryan said. “She was at work. She had no idea what we were talking about. There was no home invasion. It was a hoax.”
The puzzling thing is that the library’s telephone records did indeed show that the call had been made from the woman’s home number. Police quickly realized it was one of several hoax calls made in Westchester County over the past month using a website called spoofcard.com. The site allows the user to use a fake name and phone number to disguise their caller ID.
Including Pound Ridge, five such hoaxes have been perpetrated in Westchester over the past month. Police in Rye recently arrested a 14-year-old boy for making a 911 call that claimed three heavily armed men with a shotgun had invaded their home. Although the caller ID indicated the call came from the house in question, there was no emergency. It was another case of what police call “swatting” because the calls are meant to illicit a heavy police response, such as a SWAT team.
“Personally, I don’t get it,” Ryan said. “We’re not sure why they do it. It could be just a prank, or maybe they’re trying to distract us while they rob a bank on the other side of town.”
If it’s a prank, Ryan said it’s not very funny.
“It’s one of the most dangerous types of calls we can go on,” he said. “It puts police in harm’s way. It puts residents in harm’s way. We did a lot of damage to this woman’s home – we broke down the door.”
Investigating the hoax has proved difficult, but Ryan said his department is determined to get to the bottom of it.
“We are dealing with many different types of technologies and we’ve had to get lots of different subpoenas,” he said. “It’s laborious police work.”
Nonetheless, the chief said he is optimistic that the perpetrator will be found and prosecuted.
“It’s complicated, but my hope is we will close this by making an arrest,” he said. “Come hell or high water, they’re going to get caught.”