The Justice Department report finding 3.4 million stalking epidoes in a recent year prompted calls for reforms and increased public awareness, reports the Chicago Tribune. Even though every state has adopted an anti-stalking law, the crime is rarely prosecuted. Victims’ advocates say many states need to strengthen their laws, provide new protections and better train police and prosecutors on how to respond to the problem.
In Illinois, among other shortcomings of the state law, victims cannot get an order of protection against a stalker unless he or she is a former intimate partner or household member. “This report shows that we need to do much more to combat stalking,” said Mary Lou Leary of the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C. At least one stalking victim was slain in Illinois within the last year. Roughly one-third of victims identified in the 2006 federal study had been romantically involved with the offender at some point. Other studies have found that many victims of intimate homicide had been stalked by their attacker. While researchers don’t have cause to believe stalking is increasing, the report said the crime has become more sophisticated because of advances in technology. One in four victims said the stalker used e-mail, GPS devices, and other cyber-technology to contact or track them. “There’s now this whole new realm of stalking,” said Katrina Baum, one of the report’s authors.