FORT LEE - City officials in Fort Lee are tallying up the cost of a bogus bomb threat called into the Fort Lee police Sunday night, the third such call made in the town in less than a year.
Recently, Bergen County has experienced an increase in these fake calls, known as "swatting" because perpetrators usually make them so the SWAT team comes out. Law enforcement officials are concerned because the calls tie up police resources that could be used elsewhere.
"It is very concerning when our officers have to respond," says Fort Lee Police Chief Keith Bendul. "We have to treat [these calls] as real until such time...that we are able to determine there was no credibility to the threat whatsoever."
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The latest incident in Fort Lee involved someone calling the police to say a suicidal person with a bomb and assault rifle was inside the Pizza Hut. Route 1 & 9 had to be shut down and 10 different law enforcement agencies had to be called in. It turned out to be a hoax.
Between resources and manpower, Chief Bendul says this latest swatting incident wasted between $10,000 and $15,000 of taxpayers' money.
These calls are difficult to trace because many of the callers use the Internet to "phone in" the threat.
Chief Bendul says if the suspects are caught, they can be charged with acts of terrorism and causing false public alarm.
"This is not a game. This is not something like a real life extension of video games. This is the real world, and people can be hurt," he says.
Federal authorities are working to track down the person who made this call and others like it.