A 16-year-old Ottawa boy is facing 60 criminal charges after at least 30 fake emergencies were called in to police forces across North America, sometimes requiring a SWAT team response.

The allegations include phony bomb threats at schools in Calgary and Milton, Ont. in April.

"These incidents created real fear, put people's safety at risk and disrupted entire communities, while straining valuable emergency response resources including police, firefighters and paramedics," said Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Rick Baldwin-Ooms. "And we want people to understand that this behaviour is far from harmless."

Emergency responders investigating the hoaxes — mainly active shooter scenarios and bomb threat — weren't available to help people in need of real assistance," he said.

It's an activity called "swatting," in which 911 calls are made to get revenge on people or organizations or prank them. The aim is to get a large emergency response.

The boy was arrested at his home in west Ottawa on Thursday after a two-month investigation into fake emergency calls as far as California and Calgary, and as close as Montreal, Laval and Toronto, police said. None of the incidents police are so far aware of took place in Ottawa.

The Ottawa police are handling the cyber crime case, with help from the FBI and other Canadian police forces in Calgary, Ontario and Quebec.

The boy's home was searched and officers seized data transmission devices and communications equipment, as well as multiple firearms and ammunition.

Police said they seized the weapons from the home in the interest of public safety.

The charges against the boy include:

  • Public mischief.
  • Mischief to property.
  • Uttering death threats
  • Conveying false information with intent to alarm.

The boy cannot be identified due to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He was expected to appear in court on Friday.

Police said that he could face more charges.