This report outlines what is known about law enforcement’s experience with stalking complaints, how they identify stalking behaviors that co-occur with domestic violence, and the factors officers consider when deciding whether to arrest a person for stalking.
The report initially presents data that indicate about 4 percent of women and 2 percent of men are stalked annually in the United States. Of persons who are stalked, it is estimated that 30-50 percent contact the police about the stalking. The next section of the report examines how law enforcement officers handle stalking complaints. An arrest is unlikely unless there are visible injuries to the victim or a protective/no-contact order is involved. This report advises that training officers on stalking offenses can assist them in identifying stalking behaviors within domestic violence situations. Officers often overlook stalking when intimate partners are involved. Another major section of this report examines why stalking is difficult for police to investigate. Among the reasons is the general complexity of how stalking is defined in statutes, with some requiring a judgement about the adverse impact on the alleged victim. Also, since stalking often involves current or former intimate partners, there may be few witnesses and limited physical evidence; consequently, police often advise complainants on documenting and retaining evidence of stalking behaviors and incidents. The report concludes with a listing of recommendations on how law enforcement agencies and officers can improve their response to stalking complaints.