Stalking is one of those crimes you often see in thriller movies to heighten suspense, keeping you on the edge of your seat. However, in reality, stalking is not thrilling, nor is it just a movie plot point. It happens in real life. Did you know, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 7.5 million people are stalked every year in the United States? And the majority of victims are stalked by someone they know. Sixty-one percent of female victims and 44 percent of male victims say their stalker is a current or former intimate partner, and 25 percent of female victims and 32 percent of male victims were stalked by an acquaintance. Stalking occurs in person, on the phone and online.
How is stalking legally defined?
How stalking is defined varies from state to state, as jurisdictions have different stalking laws. However, according to the U.S. National Institute of Justice, stalking is “conservatively defined” as:
A course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated (two or more occasions) visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear.
Stalking is also described by the agency as being a crime of power and control.
What kind of behaviors do stalkers exhibit?
Stalker behavior tends to be obsessive in nature. The way they act towards their victims may vary, depending on the type of relationship (if any), their proximity to the victim, or if the person has violent tendencies. Generally, they exhibit the following types of behaviors:
- Following or lying in wait for the victim
- Threatening the victim with physical harm
- Making repeated unsolicited phone calls or texts
- Causing damage or threatening to inflict damage on the person’s property (such as their home)
- Leaving the victim unwanted presents or other items
- Spying on the victim with a GPS, camera or listening device
- Defaming the victim’s character
- Harassing the victim online by sharing personal information or spreading rumors
- Sending the victim hateful messages
Some stalkers engage in a behavior daily and others once per week. Stalkers also often use more than one method to contact or harass their victims. In one of five cases, weapons are used to harm or threaten victims. Other stalkers will even disregard orders of protection filed against them, continuing to harass their victims. Then there are stalkers who are repeat stalkers— almost one-third of stalkers have done it before!
Is stalking a felony crime?
Again, this will vary from state to state but stalking is a crime in all 50 states, District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories and the federal government. Overall, less than one-third of U.S. states consider stalking to be a felony on a first offense. More than one-half classify this crime as a felony after a second (or subsequent) offense if “aggravating factors” are present. These include: possession of a deadly weapon, violating a court order, violation of probation or parole, the victim is under 16 years of age, or the stalker pursues the same victim again. Depending on local laws, some states designate a specific number of events must occur before the activity is considered to be stalkers.
To see the specific laws and what constitutes stalking in your state, you can find this information here.
Protect America is totally committed to protecting people and their homes. If you are at risk because of a stalker or feel threatened by a potential stalker, you want to be sure you are safe in your home. Monitored home security provides a higher level of protection than using non-monitored technology and will increase protection from intruders. To learn more about options for monitored home security, call Protect America today for a free quote.