After a Florida couple was killed by a stalker, experts suggested that there was little, short of moving, that the they could have done to better protect themselves, reports the Orlando Sentinel. “It is a national problem that serious stalking cases cannot be dealt with by people of ordinary means,” said Dr. Park Dietz, a California forensic psychiatrist who heads the Threat Assessment Group. “The heart of the problem is that criminal acts that precede violence are misdemeanors.”
The man accused in Florida had been charged with misdemeanor stalking before the slayings. Tracy Bahm of the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C., said stalking laws need to get tougher. “We are advocating for stalking laws that are broad enough to include a variety of acts,” Bahm said. “Stalking is as varied as the imagination of the stalker. It makes it very difficult to draft laws.” Only 13 states consider a first stalking offense a felony. Florida is among the majority of states — 35 — that require a second offense or an aggravating factor, such as violating a court order or possessing a deadly weapon, to consider stalking a felony. Bahm said that at least 1.37 million people report being stalked annually, though not all of those cases are taken to authorities. About 28 percent of women and 10 percent of men who are stalked get restraining orders, but the vast majority of the orders are violated.