Taunton Police are investigating after a hoax 911 call drew a large police and law enforcement presence and had neighbors evacuated from their homes.

According to Chief Edward J. Walsh, Taunton Police received a 911 call at 3:11 p.m. this afternoon “from a VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) phone in which a male caller told dispatchers he had murdered his girlfriend and was intending to then harm himself at a home on Williams Street.”

Multiple police, fire and EMS units responded to the scene along with mutual aid from other departments and the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (SEMLEC) SWAT team and trained police negotiators.

Four neighboring homes were also evacuated as a precaution.

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When police arrived, though, they found nobody at the home. They were able to contact the actual resident of the address, who police say was in another city at the time and “reported that he was unaware of anything out of the ordinary occurring at his home,” according to police. It was then determined that the 911 call was a hoax, and after making a sweep of the area, residents were allowed to return to their homes. The scene was cleared by 5:30 p.m.

Police said it appears that this is a case of “swatting,” in which a prank call is made to emergency services, attempting to draw a large number of armed police officers to a particular address. According to Taunton Police, it has been recognized as a criminal phenomenon by the FBI since at least 2008.

"Swatting is an extremely dangerous practice that misallocates and ties up vital police and emergency resources, pulling them away from where they may be needed to aid in a real emergency," Chief Walsh said.

The hoax call remains under investigation.

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