Stalking, criminal threats and annoying/harassing phone calls are among the most intimidating and aggravating crimes. Stalkers destroy their victims’ sense of security and cause them to live in a constant state of anxiety and fear. There are many different behaviors that can be called stalking, but all share two common features: they involve actions not wanted by the victim and they threaten or cause fear to the victim.
What is Stalking?
Stalking is the act of a person who, on more than one occasion, follows, pursues or harasses another person, and by actively engaging in a pattern of conduct, causes the victim to believe the stalker will cause physical harm or mental distress to them or their immediate family.
Pattern of conduct means two or more actions or incidents closely related in time, whether or not there has been a prior conviction based on any of those actions or incidents.
Mental distress means any mental illness or condition that involves incapacity for a short time or a condition that would require psychiatric treatment.
Whom do Stalkers Target?
Anyone can be targeted by a stalker. Stalkers are often former spouses or partners. A stalker may target a public figure or celebrity, a child, a casual acquaintance, or a complete stranger. Victims of stalking say that it has changed the way they live their lives.
Stalking, by definition, is not a one-time act, but a course of conduct. It may involve a mix of blatantly criminal acts and acts that, in isolation, would seem non-threatening. It is the pattern and context of these non-criminal acts that constitute stalking. Stalking often includes:
- Assaulting the victim.
- Sexually assaulting the victim.
- Threatening the victim.
- Vandalizing the victim's property.
- Violating protective orders.
- Using technology to gather images of or information about the victim.
- Burglarizing the victim's home or otherwise stealing from the victim.
Other common stalking behaviors include:
- Following the victim (by car or foot).
- Visiting the victim at work or school.
- Sending the victim cards or gifts.
- Leaving telephone or e-mail messages for the victim.
- Disclosing to the victim personal information the offender has discovered about him or her.
- Disseminating personal information about the victim to others.
- Waiting outside the victim's house/place of employment.
- Sending the victim photographs taken of him or her without consent.
- Monitoring the victim's internet history and computer usage.
- Killing the victim’s pet(s).
Criminal Offenses Involved with Stalking
The specific criminal offenses involved in stalking vary from state to state. Some states have passed laws specifically prohibiting "menacing by stalking." In addition to stalking, other crimes involved may include: domestic violence, annoying/harassing telephone calls, criminal threats, assault, criminal trespass and burglary. In most states, these laws have increasing penalties for repeat offenses.
- Have important numbers nearby (police, friends, family, shelters, hotlines).
- Ask a neighbor to beware of suspicious activity (persons/vehicles) around your home and to call police if you help.
- Plan an escape route from your home and work and practice it often.
- Keep a "ready bag" packed with all of your important documents (driver's license, and registration, birth certificate, social security card, insurance papers, etc.), extra cash, address book, prescription medications, clothes, cell phone, etc. Keep it hidden, but easy to grab quickly.
- Think about where you could go if you needed to leave in an emergency (friend/family member/church)- have more than one place in mind.
- Leave extra money, car keys, and copies of important documents with someone you trust.
- If you are sharing a joint account with the stalker/abuser, open a savings account or get a credit card in your name.
- Have a "code word" to use with your family and others you trust if you need help.
- Advise your employer of the stalking incidents - they can lend support or possible intervention.
- Treat any threat as a legitimate threat and notify police immediately.
- Program 9-1-1 and the University Police non-emergency number (818) 677-2111, into your cell phone.
- Be sure your vehicle doors are locked while you are in the vehicle, and check in and around the vehicle before entering it.
- Request that someone escort you to and from your vehicle while arriving at/leaving your workplace. When on campus, call the Matador Patrol for a safety escort, (818) 677-5048.
- Avoid walking alone, especially at night or in isolated areas.
- Install deadbolts on your doors at home.
- Keep your home phone number unlisted; contact your local phone company to assist in tracing the origin of unsolicited calls.
- Use an answering machine to screen your calls; saved messages not only document the call, but may assist police as well.
What Victims of Stalking should do if Stalked/Harassed
The following is a list of suggestions for what to do if you or someone you know believes they may be the victim of stalking.
- Notify the Police. This is the first thing victims of stalking should do. Notify the respective police department where you live and work.
- Maintain a Record. Victims should maintain a detailed record of each encounter with their stalker. Maintaining a record will allow victims to recall the incidents should they need to provide the police with information or testify in court. Included in this record of incidents should be: dates, times, locations, complete description of the offender, words spoken, actions taken during the incident, actions taken afterward and names of any witnesses. The victim may also wish to tape record threats made over the telephone or in direct encounters. Any messages sent by means of voice, text, email or any other electronic communication device should be saved and kept with the record.
- Seek a Protection Order. Temporary, emergency or civil protection orders (the terminology may differ between jurisdictions) are court orders intended to keep the stalker away from the victim by making it illegal for the stalker to have contact with the victim. In most jurisdictions, a person who violates this order can be found in contempt of court and jailed or fined. A person who violates a protection order is guilty of a criminal offense, usually a misdemeanor but sometimes a felony, and is subject to criminal prosecution.
- Develop and Implement a Safety Plan: A safety plan is designed to clearly state what to do if you ever need to leave your home and/or stalker. Creating a safety plan in advance will help you to retain control during your escape. Leaving is very dangerous and it is very important to plan in advance to maintain safety.
If you’re currently being annoyed or harassed (such as receiving unwanted phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages, etc.). or believe someone is stalking you the Department of Police Services can help. Call or visit the police station at Darby Ave. & Prairie St.
- Document the incident
- Utilize the Matador Patrol’s Nighttime Safety Escort service (818) 677-5042 or 5048
- Provide a personal safety plan
- Assist in obtaining a restraining order
- Investigate the origin of the calls/messages if unknown
Statistics About Victims:
- 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the U.S.
- 77% of female victims and 64% of male victims know their stalker.
- 59% of female victims and 30% of male victims are stalked by an intimate partner.
- 73% of intimate partner stalkers verbally threatened victims with physical violence, and almost 64% of victims experienced one or more violent incidents by the stalker.
- Average duration of stalking is 1.8 years.
- If stalking involves intimate partners, average duration is 2.2 years.
Statistics About Stalkers:
- 2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, many daily, using more than one method.
- 78% of stalkers use more than one means of approach.
- Weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases.
- Intimate partner stalkers frequently approach their targets, and their behaviors escalate quickly.
Statistics About Stalking on College Campuses:
- 13% of college women were stalked during a 6-9 month period.
- 80% of campus stalking victims knew their stalkers.
- 3 in 10 college women reported being injured emotionally or psychologically from being stalked.
Statistics on Intimate Partner Femicide:
- 76% of intimate partner femicide victims had been stalked by their intimate partner.
- 67% had been abused by their intimate partner.
- 54% of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers.
California Penal Code 422 defines a criminal threat as:
"Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her safety or for his or her immediate family's safety."
California Penal Code 653m(a) defines annoying/harassing telephone calls as:
"Every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor..."
"Electronic communication device" includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular telephones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers.
For tips on what to do if you're receiving annoying or harassing phone calls, emails or other means of electronic communication, please see our Annoying/Harassing Phone Calls brochure below or contact the Crime Prevention Unit at (818) 677-7922