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Cyberstalking and Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 70 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2003 Pages: 16-26
J. A. Hitchcock
Date Published
December 2003
10 pages
This article discusses the elements of cyberstalking and how it is policed.
Most States currently have laws against cyberstalking due to the huge increase of technology in our daily lives. These laws on cyberstalking vary depending on the State and may be difficult to enforce. The article begins with a case study of a cyberstalking incident that occurred between 1998 and 2001 that is meant as a cautionary tale of not only how vulnerable people are to cyberstalkers, but also of how difficult it is to legally pursue a cyberstalking criminal case. The common elements necessary to bring cyberstalking charges against a suspect are outlined and include means, specific person, intent, and transmission. The various forms of cyberstalking are described, such as sending inappropriate electronic greeting cards and sending viruses to the victim’s computer. Steps toward resolution of the cyberstalking incident are offered, such as complaining to the Internet service provider or simply cease responding to chat room messages posted by the cyberstalker. Next, the steps involved in the police investigation of cyberstalking are offered and include obtaining a detailed description of the harassing behavior from the complainant and determining if any physical contact has been initiated by either the complainant or the harasser. Shortcuts are offered for police officers attempting to uncover the identity of a cyberstalker, such as conducting an Internet search of newsgroups with the harassers e-mail address to see if the harasser has posted their name or telephone number with any Web sites. The anonymity currently offered by the Internet offers many hiding places for cyberstalkers and makes tracing suspects difficult for law enforcement personnel. Advice for the public is offered in order to keep safe from cyberstaking and many on-line resources for officers tracking cyberstalkers are presented. Endnotes