January is National Stalking Awareness Month

Since 2004, January has been observed as National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking is defined on the U.S. Department of Justice website as “a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”  The Apache Junction Police Department would like to promote awareness of this criminal behavior in order to get victims the help that they need. If you know of someone who is a victim of stalking, encourage them to report it.

At the time of this release there have been 87 domestic violence reports recorded in 2017 in the city of Apache Junction.  Meagan MacCleary is employed at the Community Alliance Against Family Abuse, which provides services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  She said that although stalking is not reported very often by victims that her agency works with, she believes that some form of this crime is prevalent in the majority of domestic abuse cases.  Ms. MacCleary recommends that people protect themselves against this type of controlling behavior that often occurs in the places we frequent the most and through the electronic devices that we use to communicate.

Some tips:

  • Check for tracking devices in your home, car and workplace. These can be easily obtained and put in many places.
  • Protect yourself on the Internet.
  • Make your personal accounts private.
  • Disable locator services/global positioning satellite on your cell phone.
  • Be aware that texting and using social media such as Snapchat and Facebook have methods of tracking your location.

Under Arizona law stalking is a class 5 felony offense when a person fears that they or someone they are close to will be harmed or if the victim’s property will be damaged.  It is a more serious (class 3) felony if a person fears death for them, someone they have been in a close relationship with, or someone from the victim’s household.

Harassment, a form of stalking, is a class 1 misdemeanor for:

  • Continuing to follow someone in a public place after being asked to stop
  • Surveilling or causing someone to surveil someone for no legitimate purpose
  • Using the mail, a phone, in person, email or other means to harass another
  • Making a false report to police or social services in order to harass someone
  • Interfering with the public utilities of another

The website for The National Center for Victims of Crime, www.ncvc.org/src, says “It’s not a joke.  It’s not romantic.  It’s not OK.  Stop stalking.  It’s a crime.”

Editor’s note: Rob McDaniel is the Apache Junction Police Department’s community resource coordinator.

 

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