AUGUSTA — Rep. Joseph A. Garland, R-Bangor, said Tuesday he was working to develop an “anti-stalking” bill for Maine to prevent people from repeatedly following others around in a threatening manner.
Garland said people have a right to be left alone, but, unfortunately, not everyone respects that right.
So far this year, laws against stalking have been enacted in 19 states, a trend attributed to the demands of women to be protected from obsessed men.
“Usually, people thinking of stalking as a celebrity problem and it is,” said Garland, “but it also affects many regular folks who are trying to break off a relationship or discourage the unwelcome attention of a stranger. This does happen in Maine.”
Garland said overzealous fans had made life uncomfortable for best-selling author Stephen King of Bangor on several occasions, but he said stalking in Maine was more likely to involve a romance gone sour.
He said his bill would be modeled after several new laws enacted in other states, including Massachusetts, where an anti-stalking law focuses on people who violate restraining orders.
“Restraining orders alone have not proven to be effective because all too often they cannot be enforced until after they have been violated and the victim has been beaten or killed,” Garland said. “In these kinds of cases, threats and stalking are power plays. It’s nothing short of terrorism.”
Garland said his bill would allow police to act if someone repeatedly follows or lies in wait for someone else with a clear or implied threat to their safety. Penalties, probably jail time and a substantial fine, would be increased with repeat offenses.
Another aspect of the bill may allow children who do not know the identity of their stalker to be protected. This provision is contained in a new law in Connecticut.