Stalking Children – How Does Law Enforcement Respond To These Allegations

By Lawrence W. Daly

Over the past two decades stalking of children has become a major problem for law enforcement to deal with.
                Stalking should be viewed as something that has been around for years, but over the past two decades, has become a new crime.  In the United States, it is no longer a safe idea for parents to allow their children to walk to and from school; play in their front yards unsupervised; and/or to walk over to a friend’s house.  There are other scenarios where children simply are no longer safe to engage in, without the supervision of their parents. Even then children disappear in stores, malls, play grounds and other public venues.
So, who are these individuals who stalk children?  Studies have demonstrated that 75-85% of stalkers are men.  Some of these men not only stalk children and women, but men on men.  Hollywood has made several movies about stalkers who prey upon children and women. Probably the first movie to address the stalking problem was “Fatal Attraction.” This is where a male victim was pursued by a jealous and obsessive female. The drama behind this movie pointed out that stalking is a major criminal problem.
There is uneasiness in today’s world that stalkers are unprovoked strangers with mental illnesses, as well as violence perpetrated by acquaintances. The school shootings and lethal attacks by individuals have demonstrated that stalking of children is a societal problem that is not going away.  The violence which is perpetuated from this crime is tremendous. Hollywood stars have been victims of homicidal stalkers who have had no problem shooting their targeted victims. What brought stalking to the forefront was the shooting of actress Rachael Schaeffer, who was shot and killed by an obsessed fan, Robert Bardo. He located her home address and when she opened the door, shot her in the face. Over a two year period Ms. Schaeffer had to deal with Mr. Bardo’s letters, following her and other harassing actions.  Due to Ms. Schaeffer’s tragic death, laws have been created to battle an ever growing crime.
Most victims of stalkers have no idea that they are being pursued. Some stalkers make it obvious that stalkers have this one sided “monomania” love affair and one of the end results is the victim has to take out a restraining order to receive a sense of protection. If the stalker is going to kill or shoot the victim, a restraining order is not going to prevent the stalker from killing the targeted victim. However, the intent is to put the stalker on notice that law enforcement is now involved and the stalker will be subject to arrest if they continue with their inappropriate behavior.
So how safe are children when it comes to stalkers? Unfortunately, the news is not good for those children who are targeted by aggressive child molesters who prey on children in specific locations, such as malls, parks and other public locations. Parents are not trained to be on the look-out for stalkers of any kind. Due to the news and general understanding of child molesters, parents and children have become aware of specific behaviors child molesters send out, when they are on the prowl. These signals may not be strong enough for the parent and/or child to pick up and children are then abducted.
Law enforcement take stalking allegations very seriously and upon learning of any stalking situations are responsive to these types of calls. Law enforcement officials have policies, procedures and protocols on how to deal with stalking situations.  The new crime for law enforcement to deal with is Cyberstalking. This new crime has become a major concern for law enforcement and battling this new avenue for stalkers to pursue their victims is complex, convoluted and difficult to charge the stalkers with a crime. 
There are four broad categories of stalking which have been identified, which are based on relationships; they are the intimate or former intimate stalking, the stalker and victim may be married or divorced; 70-80 percent of the stalking cases fall into this category. The acquaintance stalking, the stalker and victim know each other casually.  Children are abused by someone they know. Statistics demonstrate that 90-95% of the child molesters were known to the child victim.  The stranger stalking, the stalker and child victim did not know each other at all. This type of stalker is love obsessed or fixated on the child. Finally, Cyberstalking is the new stalking, which occurs on the Internet.
In a recent comment by the Anderson police department they stated, “ . . . they get few cases of stalking, but they believe the crime happens much more often and is underreported.” If this is true, then law enforcement needs to become proactive in their approach to how they address and handle the allegations that children are being stalked.  Prevention is key to stopping them from becoming future victims.
            In the law enforcement community, law enforcement officials need to create training and educational workshops and seminars which will educate their officers in how to battle stalking from those incidences which occur on the street to the Internet. Since stalking is a new crime, law enforcement needs to educate the community and let parents, school authorities, relatives and so forth, know of the danger.
            When a report of child stalking occurs, law enforcement must encourage a child victim to make a police report, identifying any and all contacts with the stalker and the types of harassment the child victim has been a victim of. Documenting the type of harassment may assist the police in identifying specifically what crime was committed, if any at all.
            Stalking of children is a serious situation, which law enforcement is now dealing with on a proactive basis. Still there needs to be training and education of law enforcement first-responders and detectives who are assigned the follow-up to the allegations. Law enforcement must take any and all child stalking seriously, immediately contacting and/or apprehending the perpetrator for any and all of his/her actions. With the ever expanding access to the social media of the Internet, law enforcement agencies need to become proactive in their community about dealing with Cyberspace stalkers and bullies. Educating the public by giving town hall meetings and workshops for children and parents may reduce the number of sexual and physical assault type crimes.  It is never too late to educate all of the parties involved in a stalking allegation, including the law enforcement official who maybe dealing with a sexual assault allegation for the first time.

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