DOJ hosts stalker summit

Government statistics say at least one in 10 college-aged women have a stalker, which prompted GW and colleges nationwide to participate in the fourth annual National Stalking Awareness Month this month.

University Police Chief Dolores Stafford attended a summit earlier this month hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice which informed law enforcement agencies and the public about the dangers of stalking. She said the event taught her how prevalent stalking is among college-aged women.

The most striking statistic the Justice Department presented, Stafford said, is that one in 12 women and one in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime. “That’s a pretty striking number,” she said.

The DOJ statistics are from a 2000 study that found the relatively high occurrence of stalking. The study also found being an undergraduate student increased a person’s risk for being stalked.

A follow-up study is due to be completed this year, according to the department’s press release.

Stafford said while there are no statistics in the past 10 years indicating a GW student was being stalked, that does not mean none occurred. She said UPD looked at all cases which could have been classified as a stalking incident, but there is a possibility that cases weren’t reported.

Law enforcement agencies from all over the country, including D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department and national victim advocacy groups helped organize the summit. The organizations pledged to increase outreach and education efforts during January in observance of Stalking Awareness Month.

Michelle Garcia, director of the National Office of Victim Assistance’s Stalking Resource Center, said while stalking is a serious crime, it is not always reported in a systematic way. “There is no uniform collection of data across universities,” she said.

Garcia said under the Cleary Act – legislation passed that requires higher-education institutions to publish crime statistics – stalking incidents do not have to be reported.

Many college campuses are trying to be more proactive to combat this crime, Garcia said.

“There are numerous universities across the country that are addressing stalking by creating stalking policies and protocols, and providing educational programming on stalking.”

In support of the Justice Department’s efforts, MPD has actively informed the public of stalking statistics.

Esther Urbano Thomas, of MPD’s Victim Specialist Unit, said her department has distributed articles about stalking to educate both citizens and officers. She said officers are informed through a monthly publication called “Dispatch.”

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