Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is only a generalized description of stalking. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask when analyzing your stalking problem. Your answers to these questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.

Incidents

  • How many stalking incidents does your agency investigate within a year?
  • When your agency identifies stalking, does it record it? If so, does it record it specifically as stalking, or as the particular offense committed during each incident?
  • What percentage of stalking cases involve other offenses (e.g., homicide, domestic violence, threats, harassing phone calls, child abuse, pet abuse, theft, vandalism)? Conversely, what percentage of those offenses involve stalking? For example, what percentage of domestic violence incidents are part of a stalking pattern?
  • Does your agency have data systems for tracking repeat offenses (by offender, victim, and location)?
  • To what extent are stalkers using advanced technology such as global positioning systems, wireless remote cameras, and invasive computer programs to stalk victims?

Victims

  • How many stalking victims are there in your jurisdiction? (Consider conducting a local victimization survey, rather than relying on police reports.)
  • What percentage of stalking victims report it to the police?
  • What physical injuries do victims suffer? What psychological harm? What other harms (e.g., missed work or school, job loss, moving expenses)?
  • Do particular populations in your community appear to be targeted for stalking?

Offenders

  • What percentage of stalkers have stalked more than one victim?
  • What is the relationship between stalkers and victims?
  • What percentage of stalkers are strangers to their victims? Acquaintances? Former lovers or spouses?
  • Have stalkers had multiple contacts with the criminal justice system? Have they been convicted of stalking before?
  • Do stalkers routinely violate protective orders? Bail conditions?
  • Are stalkers monitored while cases are pending?
  • Do stalkers contact victims while cases are pending?
  • Do stalkers access information about victims once a case has been initiated, such as where they live or work?
  • Are stalkers held accountable when they violate bond or probation conditions?
  • Do stalking incidents occur at particular locations, such as victims' workplaces or homes?
  • Do stalking incidents occur at certain times of the day, days of the week, or times of the year (e.g., when children are not home, in the middle of the night, on weekends, around holidays or other special days)?

Current Responses

  • How does your agency currently respond to stalking?
  • How is the problem addressed by patrol officers? Investigators? Victim advocates?
  • Does your agency have a written policy or protocol for responding to stalking or potential stalking incidents?
  • What training do officers receive on stalking?
  • How do other agencies (prosecutor's offices, courts, victims' assistance organizations) handle stalking cases?
  • What services are provided to stalking victims? How are victims made aware of those services?
  • Do you currently have formal cooperative agreements with other law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels in stalking cases?
  • Does your agency routinely work with community social service agencies on stalking cases?
  • Has your community developed a multidisciplinary response to stalking?
  • What systems are in place to monitor convicted stalkers? Are they effective?
  • Does your agency routinely check for ways that offenders can contact or access information about victims while they are incarcerated or when their cases are pending?
  • Do you believe the laws in your jurisdiction provide adequate legal authority to address stalking?
  • What percentage of stalking charges result in conviction?
  • What types of sentences do stalkers receive when convicted? To what extent do they comply with sentence terms?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to stalking:

  • increased number of stalking complaints (this may indicate that victims are more willing to report it),
  • shorter time between the first and last stalking incidents,
  • reduced harm suffered by victims,
  • increased number of stalking cases in which charges are filed,
  • increased conviction rate,
  • increased number of arrests for violations of protective orders,
  • increased victim satisfaction with police handling of their cases, and
  • increased victim perception of safety.