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Study on Cyberstalking: Understanding Investigative Hurdles

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 72 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2003 Pages: 10-17
Robert D'Ovidio M.S.; James Doyle
Date Published
March 2003
8 pages
This article discusses the etiology of cyberstalking via the Internet.
The Internet provides the opportunity for stalkers to harass their targets under the assumption of anonymity. Cyberstalking is defined as “the repeated use of the Internet, e-mail, or related digital electronic communication devices to annoy, alarm, or threaten a specific individual or group of individuals.” This crime has become so widespread that all 50 States and the Federal Government have enacted legislation designed to protect victims of cyberstalking. In the current study, the authors examined all 201 closed cases of aggravated harassment between January 1996 and August 2000 that were investigated by the New York Police Department’s Computer Investigation and Technology Unit (CITU). The offenders in these cases were mainly males (80 percent), 74 percent were White, 13 percent were Asian, 8 percent were Hispanic, and 5 percent were Black. The average age of the cyberstalkers was 24, although 26 percent of these offenders were juveniles. The victims of the cyberstalkers were mainly females (52 percent), but many of the targets were institutions such as educational institutions, private corporations, and public-sector agencies. Eighty-five percent of the victims were White, 6 percent were Asian, 5 percent were Black, and 4 percent were Hispanic. The average age of the victims was 32. In terms of technology used, most cases (92 percent) used only one method of technology. E-mail was used in 79 percent of the cases and instant messenger was used in 13 percent of the cases. The authors also discuss the challenges faced by law enforcement when dealing with cases of cyberstalking. The most glaring challenges are described as jurisdictional issues and issues of privacy when trying to obtain account records and user information from Internet service providers. The continued widespread use of technology and the anonymous nature of cyberstalking will likely contribute to the continued increase in this type of crime. 8 Endnotes