Key Issue: Organized Stalking
A 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, titled Stalking Victimization in the United States, revealed that 448,557 Americans were group stalked (defined as stalking by 3+ perpetrators). Almost 2/3rds (65%) of stalking victims are women. Though prevalent, little attention has been given to laws that specifically outlaw organized stalking (or group stalking).
Stalking is a crime in California. Current California Penal Code Section 646.9 specifies: “Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, is guilty of the crime of stalking”
Organized stalking is defined as stalking by 2 or more people. Recently, California has seen several such incidents. Harvey Weinstein used private investigators to stalk his sexual harassment victims and the journalists covering accusations against him. The Church of Scientology has used organized stalking against former members and critics, as documented in “Scientology and the Aftermath” by Hollywood actress Leah Remini.
Organized stalking has emerged as a tool by the powerful against the powerless.
The Problem Today
To convict a defendant of the crime of stalking in California, prosecutors must prove that the victim was willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed or harassed by a perpetrator. “Repeatedly” means 2 or more occasions. However, by rotating and varying participants in organized stalking, perpetrators can avoid the standards required for the criminal threshold of stalking.
Additionally, there is no well defined statute against organized stalking that would give law enforcement impetus to investigate the ‘possible’ relationships between multiple stalkers engaging in harassment or stalking of a victim. There is also no standardized investigation protocol for organized stalking.
Last, seemingly innocuous actions such as having members of the group honk one’s horn as they pass the victim’s house, which characterized one organized stalking campaign documented on ABC News, are perceived as too minor to prosecute. Consequently, they become a method of choice of organized stalkers.
Current organized crime laws such as RICO apply to crimes such as murder but not to stalking.
LiveFree proposes the “Organized Stalking and Harassment Bill” to address the issues outlined above. It will ensure that those using organized stalking to silence others or to punish a target outside the reach of the law will be held accountable.
We can all agree we do not want a repeat of the Harvey Weinstein scandal – in which female victims were stalked and harassed in an organized fashion because they dared to speak up about his sexual abuse. Key to preventing a repeat occurrence is putting legislation in place to name, define, and outlaw this unique form of organized crime.