July 16, 2020

Prosecutors told to get ‘creative’ with stalkers

BAR HARBOR – Sting may have penned the perfect stalker’s anthem in 1983 when he wrote: “Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.”

Maine’s current anti-stalking law, which classifies stalking as a misdemeanor, doesn’t cover all the possibilities the British rock star apparently contemplated.

Proposed changes to Maine’s anti-stalking law were presented Wednesday to prosecutors at their annual meeting being held this week in Bar Harbor. A task force formed last year by Maine Attorney General G. Steven Rowe proposed the changes.

Once approved by Rowe, a proposed statute is expected to be submitted later this year to the Legislature, prosecutors were told Wednesday.

Proposed legislation would make certain stalking behavior a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and criminalize threatening the dating partners, friends, coworkers and pets of the suspected stalker’s intended target.

The bill also would prohibit the use of Global Position Satellite, or GPS, monitoring, disposable cell phones and other devices to track the movements of victims or monitor their computer activities.

While the Maine Prosecutors Association did not discuss Wednesday the particulars of the proposal, members did learn more about stalkers and their methods from J. Thomas Kirkman, director of the Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit in Barnstable, Mass., a regional expert on stalking.

“Stalkers are far more creative than our legislatures,” Kirkman said. “We have to stalk the stalkers.”

A 1997 study, the most recent available, found that 1 million women and 370,000 men are stalked each year in the United States, Kirkman said. The study also found that 8 percent of all women and 2 percent of all men had been stalked at some time during their lives.

Kirkman urged prosecutors and victim witness advocates, who also attended the session, to “wrap victims in services.” He also stressed the need to set up safety plans with victims that include the following time periods: before charges are filed or presented to a grand jury; leading up to an arraignment; pending trial; and after a trial or disposition of the case.

He also urged prosecutors to work with police so that they consider charging a suspect with stalking any time there is:

. A report of harassing behavior.

. More than one incident of harassment.

. A prior violation of a protection order.

. A history of stalking behavior not previously reported.

“Stalkers are very intelligent,” Kirkman said. “They rationalize and deny and can outsmart interviewers. So, we need to be creative in charging them.”

Maine prosecutors nodded their heads in agreement as the Massachusetts prosecutor suggested charging suspected stalkers with terrorizing and criminal threatening if the stalking charges might not stick.

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