Phoenix
55°
Partly Cloudy
7:10 am5:21 pm MST
TueWedThu
77/54°F
73/52°F
68/52°F

Local News

Arizona Synagogues, Jewish Organizations, Targeted in ‘Swatting’ Hoaxes

iStock

by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, Arizona Mirror
August 24, 2023

Arizona is one of 12 states that have been the target of hoax calls to police or suicide hotlines where a man on the line says he aims to kill himself and others with a bomb, prompting a police response in an online form of harassment known as “swatting.” 

The Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League confirmed to the Arizona Mirror that three Jewish institutions in the Grand Canyon State were targeted starting in mid-July by a network of online perpetrators who have been targeting Jewish, Black and Sikh places of worship across the country.  

The New York Times reported earlier this month that 26 such swatting calls have been made in 12 states. The Mirror is the first to report some of those calls targeted Arizona congregations.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

SUBSCRIBE

The 26 calls tracked by the ADL all aim to commit the act of swatting against the institutions. Swatting is when a hoaxer deceives police to respond, often with heavily armed SWAT teams, by calling in a fake emergency or bomb threat. Oftentimes, swatting calls are used to harass individual people at their residences; in this case, they are targeting places of worship. 

According to reporting by the Times, police officers showed up at synagogues in New York with bomb-sniffing dogs, while worshipers at one victimized congregation in North Carolina were evacuated. Callers use highly antisemitic language while making the calls, according to the ADL

The hoax calls come as incidents of antisemitism have continued to rise nationally, reaching their highest levels since 1979

In Arizona, there were a total of 53 reported incidents of antisemitism in 2022, down from 56 the year prior but still more than the 23 reported in 2020, the 20 reported in 2019 and 32 reported in 2018. The incidents include an increase in pushes of propaganda by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups who have been sharing their rhetoric at college campuses across the state. 

No one has been injured in any of the Arizona swatting incidents, said Sarah Kader of the Arizona chapter of the ADL. 

“They’re not new, necessarily, but these rapid incidents are a more recent phenomenon,” Kader said, noting that the incidents have been happening at a fast pace. The ADL is encouraging institutions to cooperate with law enforcement and report any incidents to them as well as law enforcement. 

The calls also haven’t just targeted places of worship, either. They’ve targeted the ADL itself as well as at least one news organization, according to the ADL. 

Local police and the FBI are currently investigating the calls.

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

DONATE

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.