Stalking is a criminal act that most people usually equate with celebrities; however, stalking is a crime that is prevalent throughout the United States. Recent statistics suggest that fourteen in every one thousand American adults have been the victim of a stalker.1 Many, if not most, stalking cases are directly related to a domestic violence situation in some capacity. In fact, “about 1 in 6 victims believed the stalking started to keep him or her in the relationship with the offender, and 1 in 10 reported the stalking began while living with the offender.” 1
In 2008, the Kansas legislature enacted some changes to the Kansas Stalking Statute which was much more specific in its wording and increased the severity of stalking penalties. The Kansas statute defines stalking as “intentionally or recklessly engaging in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person which would cause a reasonable person in the circumstances of the targeted person to fear for such person's safety, or the safety of a member of such person's immediate family and the targeted person is actually placed in such fear.” But what is a course of conduct? The statute gives the following examples:
- Threatening the safety of the targeted person or a member of such person's immediate family.
- Following, approaching or confronting the targeted person or a member of such person's immediate family.
- Appearing in close proximity to, or entering the targeted person's residence, place of employment, school or other place where such person can be found, or the residence, place of employment or school of a member of such person's immediate family.
- Causing damage to the targeted person's residence or property or that of a member of such person's immediate family.
- Placing an object on the targeted person's property or the property of a member of such person's immediate family, either directly or through a third person.
- Causing injury to the targeted person's pet or a pet belonging to a member of such person's immediate family.
- Any act of communication. (This would include any form of communication, including phone, email, text, in person, by mail, etc.)
The statute further explains that the “course of conduct” can occur over any length of time and that two of the above incidents must have occurred in order for the actions to truly be considered a course of conduct. This being said, “stalking is unlike most crimes because a course of conduct designed to create fear in another person does not necessarily require that the victim come into contact with the offender.” 1
If you believe that you or a loved one is the victim of stalking, there are a number of things that the Sheriff’s Office strongly suggests that you do. One is to make sure that all incidents are strictly documented. It is recommended that you keep a log with the date, time, location, the names and contact information of witnesses, a description of the incident and a police case number if pertinent. This log should be accurate and complete and may be very helpful in a criminal prosecution against a stalker. Secondly, friends, family, and co-workers should be notified about what is going on. Make sure that you always carry a cell phone with you and that you avoid dangerous activities such as walking alone across a deserted nighttime parking lot to your vehicle. Make sure that whenever possible there is someone with you in locations where you may be more vulnerable. It is also advisable that you and your family and friends establish a code phrase in the event that you are cornered by your stalker and for some reason are unable to call 911. For example, if your stalker has broken into your residence and a family member happens to call, if you told them a predetermined code phrase such as “My dog Patches has a vet appointment tomorrow morning” then they would know that 911 needed to be called and that you are possibly in danger. Finally, go through the necessary steps to obtain a Protection from Stalking Order. This can be obtained at a county courthouse and the process is outlined under the article entitled “PFA/PFS.” A violation of a Protection from Stalking order is now a severity level nine, person felony. Every violation of a PFS should be reported to law enforcement for documentation purposes. Remember, however, that in some circumstances law enforcement officers may not be able to make an arrest and may only be able to document the incident. Thorough documentation, however, is essential for a successful stalking prosecution.
While in some situations stalking victims have never met their stalkers, in others, the victim and stalker have been friends, co-workers, neighbors, or intimate partners. Because of this, it is important that people do not give out personal information to people whom they hardly know. This very much applies to Internet users. There have been many cases in which victims were stalked by people they met in chat rooms, on Craig’s List, and on dating websites. Use your common sense and if something just doesn’t feel right, get out of that situation. Some possible warning signs that should not be ignored are listed below:
- If your partner has become very controlling.
- If someone you know is overly concerned about your whereabouts.
- If someone you know is constantly calling you to check up on you.
- If you often “accidentally” run into the same person at either a public or private location.
- If your partner is calling your family and friends in an attempt to find you constantly.
- If you begin receiving strange or threatening pieces of mail, text messages, phone messages, or messages via the Internet (ex. Instant messages, etc.) from someone.
While this list is in no way exhaustive of all possible stalking behaviors and actions, any of the above behaviors should be noted and should be strongly considered by the possible victim.
Stalking is not a crime that will usually go away on its own. It is important that you recognize what is happening and cooperate fully with law enforcement officers as they investigate your case. In addition, there are a number of community resources that are available to answer questions and offer support and assistance if needed.
We, at the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, are dedicated to helping citizens combat crime in their neighborhoods. But we need your help! By utilizing crime prevention techniques around your home, work place, and vehicles, you can decrease your chances of becoming a victim! If you have any questions about what you could do to help protect yourself and your property, please call either your Community Liaison Unit at (316) 660-3920 or your Community Policing Unit at (316) 660-0750.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this document is not intended to be legal advice, but is merely intended to convey general information commonly encountered when dealing with the Subjects discussed herein. Because laws can change very rapidly, we cannot guarantee that any Information on this document (or references contained therein) is current or accurate. Additionally, laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and are subject to interpretation of courts located in each county. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case and the information provided herein may not be an appropriate fit for your particular situation. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, its employees, agents, or others will not be liable or responsible for any claim, loss, injury, liability, or damages related to use of this document or any reference provided herein.
1 Baum PhD, Katrina, Shannan Catalano PhD, Michael Rand, and Kristina Rose. "Stalking Victimization in the United States." Stalking Victimization in the United States. United States Department of Justice, 01 Jan. 2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2009.