YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A group discussion Thursday at the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office is taking aim at stalking.
With January being Stalking Awareness Month, local leaders took the opportunity to gather and talk about local responses to the problem.
Stalking is described by the U.S. Justice Department as conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear for his or her safety or the safety of someone close such as a family member.
Stalking can include any one of the following behaviors:
- Approaching the victim or showing up in places when the victim didn’t want them to be there
- Making unwanted telephone calls
- Leaving the victim unwanted messages (text or voice
- Watching or following the victim from a distance
- Spying on the victim with a listening device, camera, or global positioning system (these were the most commonly reported stalker tactics by both female and male victims of stalking
Statistics show that nearly 1,400 cases of stalking are reported every year in Ohio.
In some cases, stalking has led to murder. In 2012, a woman was shot and killed in Canfield by a man who had been stalking her for years.
“In our cases that are true stalking by definition, they do escalate. And unfortunately, without proper interventions they can end in tragedy,” said Jennifer Gray with Compass Family Services.
Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said stalking is a crime that doesn’t get the attention it should.
“It’s one of those issues that is kind of off to the side until somebody that you are close to starts going through something like that. It can be very scary for that individual,” Greene said.
Stalkers can be neighbors, acquaintances or former domestic partners
Gray said getting everybody together to talk about stalking creates relationships that can be helpful as a stalking situation develops.
“When you get a case that is escalating, you can prevent tragedy if all those pieces are in place,” Gray said.