Marple Township Police responded to a hostage threat on Monday which turned out to be a hoax and officials are now investigating who is responsible for the more than $5,000 prank.
A 911 call was received at about 2:52 p.m. Monday saying a man with a gun was holding a hostage in a home on Carlton Drive in the Lawrence Park section of the township, Marple Police Chief Tom Murray said.
However, officials quickly determined that it appeared the call was a hoax based on information that was received, which was not adding up, he said.
"But to protect everyone we had to treat it as real until we could prove otherwise," Murray said in an email message.
Marple police detectives interviewed neighbors to gather information on the person residing in the house in question and identified the owner, he said.
Officials learned that the homeowner had a residence down the shore, they contacted him and he provided a local person with a key to the property so a tactical team could enter and clear the residence, Murray said.
Nothing was found out of order inside the house.
The cost of the incident was likely in the area of $5,000 plus, Murray said, with multiple police departments responding to the scene.
Officials suspect computers were used in making the call in a process called "spoofing" or "swatting," which uses a local phone number to make the initial call, Murray said, and an investigation to find the prankster is ongoing.
Marple Police initially responded with assistance by surrounding departments including Newtown, Springfield and Haverford townships, Media Borough, Aston Township, Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division, and Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.
"If we’re successful in being able to track the caller we would aggressively prosecute,” Whelan told the Delaware County Daily Times. "If they’re convicted they’ll face significant time in jail."