Policing: An International Journal, Ahead of Print.
Purpose Few studies have explored the correlates of police responses to the crime of stalking. The purpose of this paper is to examine the correlates of nine specific police actions (no action, multiple actions, took a report, talked to perpetrator, arrested perpetrator, recommended PO or RO, recommended self-protection, referred to prosecutor’s office and referred to social services) to this type of crime. This study found three of the four incident measures (victim-offender relationship, intimidation and physical injury) and three of the four victim demographic measures (age, gender and marital status) significantly predicted seven of the nine police actions. Design/methodology/approach Data for this study came from the 2006 Stalking Victimization Supplement of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The sample included stalking cases that were reported to the police and all measures were constructed using victims’ responses to survey questionnaires. Nine logistic regression models were estimated and in each model, four incident characteristic variables and four victim demographic variables were regressed on each of the nine police actions. Findings This study found three of the four incident characteristic measures (victim-offender relationship, intimidation, and physical injury) and three of the four victim demographic variables (age, gender and marital status) were significantly related to seven of the nine specific police actions (no action, multiple actions, arrested perpetrator, recommended PO or RO, recommended self-protection, referred to prosecutor’s office and referred to social services). None of the incident characteristic and victim demographic measures were related to two of the nine specific police actions (took a report and talked to perpetrator). Research limitations/implications This study possesses the same shortcomings associated with the NCVS. The current study involves cross-sectional, official data that are over 10 years old. The measures employed in the current study are victims’ perceptions of how the officers acted. The study does not include information regarding how many times the victim contacted the police or the nature of the stalking episode. The study excludes other variables (suspect’s demeanor, the presence of witnesses) that may be relevant in examining subsequent police responses to stalking. Practical implications Frontline offices should be required to undertake stalking training. Further, stalking training needs to be conducted independently from domestic violence training. Mandatory stalking training for law enforcement officers will lead to a greater comprehension of existing stalking statute for the officers as well as help increase the number of offenders being identified and charged with this crime by the officers. Social implications Police inaction to reported stalking not only dissuade victims from reporting future victimizations, it will also result in stalking being an under-reported crime. Police inaction could potentially compromise victim safety and/or offender accountability. Police inaction also undermines the legitimacy of law enforcement and attenuates the relationship between citizens and police agencies. Originality/value To date, only one study has examined the correlates of subsequent police responses to the crime of stalking. However, this study employed broad measures of police actions (formal and informal). The current study involves specific police actions (e.g. taking a report, referring the victim to social service agencies). Contrary to the prior study that found none of the incident and victim characteristics was related to two broad measures of subsequent police responses, this study found several incident and victim measures significantly predicted seven specific police actions.