By: Sgt. Baron Brown, Ferndale Police
RECENTLY, THE FERNDALE POLICE Department investigated a case of a committed stalker. This incident didn’t result in any physical contact or injury to the male victim, but did result in the victim suffering considerable emotional injury and a feeling of helplessness and loss of control. This got me to thinking about how much our readers really know about stalking. January is National Stalking Awareness Month and a good opportunity to spread some useful knowledge and resource information about stalking. Stalking is such a widespread illegal behavior in this country that all 50 states have stalking laws. According to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control, approximately 7.5 million people were stalked in just one year. Victims are most often stalked by someone they know. Frequently, stalkers are ex-partners or acquaintances of the victim with only 1 in 8 females and 1 in 5 males being victims of stranger stalking. Stalking is seriously under-reported. For many reasons, including the victim’s belief that the behavior isn’t criminal, the police won’t take the report seriously or a victim minimizing the seriousness of the behavior, only about approximately 37% of males and 41% of females will actually make a report with the police.
As with the victimization risk for most crimes, the youngest members of our society are most at risk. Stalking victims are typically in the 18 to 24 year old age range. The overrepresentation of this age group may play an increased role in the underreporting of this crime. This age group is also highly involved in social media, which is an ideal vehicle for a stalker to commit their illegal acts. In addition to using social media, stalkers also follow their victims, inundate them with phone calls and text messages, show up at locations that the victim is likely to be, and send messages through third parties. Unfortunately, the increased availability of easy to use technology such as home surveillance systems and global positioning devices make it harder for a victim to escape stalking behavior.
Studies show that ignoring a stalker isn’t necessarily effective in stopping the behavior. In fact, ignoring a stalker in some cases can increase the frequency and seriousness of the stalking behavior. One might think that stalkers are mentally ill but that notion isn’t supported by fact. Researchers have found that while some stalkers are mentally ill, there is no evidence that most stalkers are mentally ill.
In Michigan stalking occurs when there are 2 or more unwanted contacts that could cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress and does cause a victim to actually suffer emotional distress. A person guilty of stalking is responsible for a misdemeanor and can be imprisoned for not more than 1 year and fined up to $1000. If a victim is less than 18 years old and the stalker is more than 5 years older than the victim it’s a felony punishable by a prison term of not more than 5 years and up to a $10,000 fine. A person is guilty of aggravated stalking if they violate a court order prohibiting stalking behavior, make a credible threat, or have been convicted of misdemeanor stalking in the past.
Aggravated stalking is a felony punishable by a prison term of not more than 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Again, if the victim is less than 18 and is stalked by someone more than 5 years older the penalty can increase to a term of imprisonment of not more than 10 years and a fine of up to $15,000. If you feel you are a victim of stalking please report it to the police.
Intervention is key and the criminal behavior is best addressed by initiating a criminal investigation into the incident. Reporting the behavior to police allows the prosecutor to charge aggravated stalking with harsher penalties in the future. It also allows the prosecutor to show a pattern of behavior by the stalker in court proceedings. When you report a case of stalking to the Ferndale Police Department, the case will be investigated and resources will be made available to you, including information on how to acquire a Personal Protection Order.
For more information, visit Haven’s website or call their 24-hour crisis and support line 248-334-1274. (information taken from stalkingawarenessmonth.org)
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