- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 09 December 2015
- Written by DANIELLE SCHIPANI | NEWS EDITOR
A bill that increases second offense penalties for stalkers sponsored by Deputy Republican Conference Leader Mary Pat Angelini as well as Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz has been signed into law. They have been working on the bill since 2014.
The bill (A-3841) authorizes courts to order electronic monitoring of a defendant convicted of a second or subsequent stalking offense against the same victim. The bill requires the Administrative Office of the courts to work with the Attorney General to establish a program for the continuous, satellite-based monitoring of second-offense stalking defendants. The bill also upgrades second offense stalking against the same victim or a violation of an existing court order to a third degree crime.
“Approximately 7.5 million people are stalked in one year in the United States,” said Assemblywoman Angelini. “The impact on stalking victims can be devastating, as they often suffer a wide range of psychological, physical, occupational, social and general life- style effects as a result of being stalked. This bill is a positive step forward to help protect these victims from stalkers who are not deterred by a first-time conviction.”
A study performed by the National Institute of Justice in 2011 found that, “…monitoring significantly reduces the likelihood of failure under community supervision. The decline in the risk of failure is about 31 percent compared with offenders placed on other forms of community supervision.”
“I believe it sends a message to suspects that stalking will not be tolerated and at the same times reassures victims that the courts are taking the issue seriously,” said Monmouth University Chief of Police William McElrath. He believes that the law was passed to “prevent further incidents of stalking and to reassure the victim that all is being done to prevent further occurrences.”
The electronic monitoring device is similar to a GPS that allows the police to track them, is worn on the ankle of the defendant. Angelini explained that stalkers frequently ignore restraining orders.
She believes the electronic monitoring device will be more effective and will help ensure the safety of stalking victims. “This puts the stalker on alert that they will be monitored 24/7 and if they leave their permitted geographic areas the police will come arrest them,” said Angelini.
The amount of time the defendant has to wear the device is to be decided on a case-by-case basis by the judge. The state parole board will determine the particulars of the law which judges will use as guidelines when sentencing defendants.
“This is another tool in the toolbox for protecting victims of stalking. Many times domestic violence cases have a component of stalking to them and the law gives judges another opportunity to really restrain the perpetrator,” said Angelini.
McElrath said that stalking is not a common problem at the University but that there has been some isolated incidents.
“I wouldn’t say that it is a problem. We have received isolated complaints that could be considered stalking but it usually is resolved by the Police Department contacting the suspect and advising them of the repercussions if the stalking continues. In most cases the victim does not wish to sign complaints and is satisfied that the stalker has been talked to by the police.”
Susan Levine, victim support program coordinator of 180 Turning Lives Around said that the organization is pleased with the new law and hopes that it will help ensure the safety of both victims of stalking and of domestic violence. This will hopefully help victims themselves. Them just knowing that the defendants are being monitored by the police constantly will make them feel more secure. It will help empower victims that are affected by stalking,” she said.
180 Turning Lives Around is a Monmouth County based non-profit agency which provides support to individuals and families who have been affected by domestic violence, many of whom experience stalking. They have a 24/7 hotline that provides completely confidential support at 732-264-4111.
Another important aspect of protecting victims of stalking is to educate people on the issue. Angelini described how many people do not understand that stalking is a crime that has consequences.
“The new law is great as it will improve the security and safety of stalking victims in New Jersey,” said Melanie Brima, a junior social work and psychology student at the University. She explained that any law that improves the life quality of these victims can be seen as a positive since there are so many victims in New Jersey and throughout the nation.
McElrath explained that The University Police always advises victims that if they have any safety concerns, to let them know about as soon as possible. MUPD can provide escort services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The most important thing is to first start out by notifying the police and have your concerns documented.
Additionally, students should know that they, “can be punished for stalking under the Student Code of Conduct. Students Services will issue ‘No Contact’ letters to students who might be involved in stalking type incidents,” he said.
MUPD can be contacted at 732-571-4444 (on campus ext. 4444) any time a student has safty concerns.