Stalking is a modern-day problem in a society where individuals are constantly seeking attention. In some instances, stalking becomes an obsession that may put many in grave danger. Stalking is now categorized alongside aggravate assault and intimidation which speaks volumes of the offense’s seriousness. According to a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), 7.5 million individuals are stalked annually in the United States (Stalking Resource Center, 2018). It is for this very reason that jurisdiction statutes such as those in California currently classify stalking as an actual crime.
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The following are the primary objectives of this training program:
- To raise awareness and bring attention to stalking criminal behavior and factors that influence perpetrators to pick up the demeanor. It is also critical to outline the reasons and motivations behind their actions.
- The introduction of self-defense training for at-risk individuals to mitigate any attack in case the situation escalates.
- To establish common barriers to reporting stalking cases.
- Implementing novel solutions to problems encountered by criminal justice practitioners who seek to report stalking cases in a justice system with various loopholes for offenders.
Overview of Crime
Under the training objectives listed above, it would be appropriate to gain a deeper understanding of the act of stalking and how it affects victims. Stalking typically involves the unauthorized following of an individual and constantly checking their whereabouts. In some rare instances, perpetrators even go as far as hiring private detectives to keep tabs on their victims. Stalking may also involve identity theft and voyeurism. Stalkers have also been known to call their victims incessantly or committing spoofing assaults in the cyberspace. This demeanor may escalate to robbery incidences where stalkers enter victim’s homes and steal any item that may interest them. Stalkers also commonly send notes to their victims and may spread false information about their targets. They may also appear at their workplace or home, uninvited and proceed to hack the target’s personal computer (PC) using malicious malware. A stalker’s exploits also include tapping telephones and placing global positioning systems (GPS) trackers on victim’s automobiles (Baum, 2018, p. 34). Furthermore, their activities may escalate to vandalism, leaving obscene graffiti on their wake, hurting pets and carrying out acts of arson. Common perpetrators include individuals on parole, casual acquaintances, strangers, and workplace acquaintances. Intimacy seekers, resentful lovers, and incompetent suitors are common groups of individuals who eventually become stalkers.
The rise of the internet has also widened the scope for slaking activities. Cyber stalking is an emerging category where perpetrators use modern technology and equipment such as personal computers (PCs) to torment their target. Stalkers prefer this mode since it is easy for them to remain incognito while gathering crucial data from their victims. The advent of social media where individuals can create fake profiles has made it possible for many stalkers to enter the virtual worlds that many of their victims create and remain undetected. For instance, an individual posting a status update about their dinner plans may, inadvertently, be proving a cyber-stalker with a unique opportunity to break into their home. In this particular, there is a reduced chance of confrontation while still being able to conduct their thieving acts and sheer vandalism.
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It is now common within the United States for bands of stalkers to target a single victim in a malevolent attempt to make their lives unbearable. In other instances, the same individual may be stalked by more than one individual, putting them in a precarious position. The U.S Department of Justice fully acknowledges this growing trend and the risk it poses to vulnerable individuals. Victims who are stalked by more than one individual may become paranoid and even fail to venture beyond their doors, due to their fear of being accosted by their stalkers.
False Claims of Victimization
Although stalking is a serious offense, a recent trend of false claims of victimization is slowly gaining a foothold in the United States. These reports usually feature delusional claims of individuals being stalked and harassed by intimidating gangs. The interpersonal nature of this crime often means that officers have to take these claims seriously and act accordingly to avoid a situation where harm befalls the individual who made the report. However, illegitimate claims are a stark reality that law enforcement officers now have to contend with daily. The duration of a relationship, mental wellbeing, and employment status are issues that may impact an individual’s decision to make false claims hinging upon stalking. Furthermore, false reports may also be influenced by the victim’s age where persons below 18 years are quite likely to make false reports.
Laws Focusing on Stalking
Stalking was, initially, not classified as a misdemeanor under the law which is primarily why most cases went unreported. However, the legality of stalking was once again challenged in the 1990s by lobby groups and activists highlighting the plight of victims. Soon after, California became the first state in the United States to categorize the act of stalking as a crime and responsible for its classification as a demeanor. Any pending case that bore hallmarks of stalking was reviewed, with individuals who were found guilty now expected to serve time for breaking tenets of the law. The law was first placed under California Penal Code Section 646.9 before being readily accepted by other jurisdictions across the United States grappling with similar cases (Das, 2018). By 1993, stalking became a criminal offense and categorized statewide as a misdemeanor.
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Solutions to Counteract Stalking Behavior
Potential victims must remain proactive to avoid being a victim of stalking. Additionally, it is important to also approach this issue from a multidimensional perspective by providing tips to stalkers on how to prevent the development of this particular habit. As a behavior, stalking develops over time and becomes a habit akin to an addiction. It engulfs any sense of restraint and ends up controlling most perpetrators. Persons with a penchant for stalking others should find constructive activities to keep them occupied during periods when they are most likely to stalk people. In extreme cases, an individual with an uncontrollable urge to stalk others is advised to seek professional help. Professionals can help stalkers get to the root of the problem as a first step to freeing themselves from their preoccupation.
Misconstrued Stalking Claims
Stalking claims may also be the result of misunderstandings. For instance, an individual interacting with a person in the autism spectrum may regard the sufferers as textbook stalkers although such persons have difficulty reading social cues. Persons in the autism spectrum are very likely to be misunderstood by those with little knowledge of the condition and its manifestations (Davis, 2015, p. 76). It is, therefore, critical to conduct various awareness campaigns aimed at helping the public understand this disorder and how to assist sufferers. Moreover, the functional behavior assessment is now being conducted across the United States to evaluate individuals capable of stalking others and understanding their motivations. It is also related to the course since individuals with disabilities may end up being listed as offenders.
Summary and Conclusion
Stalking has recently been categorized as a crime as a deterrent to individuals with this particular habit. For many, it is an obsession that develops over time and soon takes over their lives. It is a behavior capable of endangering the lives of victims who may find themselves in a complex maze with their attackers. The advent of the internet now accords a unique opportunity to predators that now stalk their victims online and retrieve crucial data from their victims. Nevertheless, false claims of victimization are also common in the United States, especially from delusional individuals suffering from bouts of paranoia. The grave nature of stalking as a federal offense is the chief reason why it is prohibited nationally, with an appropriate offense being handed to offenders. Stalking is a learned behavior that can be countered by acknowledging its destructive tendencies and replacing it with constructive behavior. A training program is an important step in arming law enforcement officers with knowledge regarding this offense and how best to deal with offenders. Law enforcement officers should always remember that everyone runs the risk of being stalked which is why it is always important to remain vigilant.
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