When students’ Facebook updates are consistently posted, it can be an easy invitation to technology-based stalking. With GPS-enabled Twitter updates, a person’s location is more than accessible for stalkers who want to take it to the next level.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan hosted an in-depth discussion at DePaul University’s School of Law, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., on Jan. 21, called “Campus Safety and Cyber
Dangers: Stalking on College Campuses in the Digital Age,” for January’s National Stalking Awareness Month, calling attention to stalking on college campuses and
technology’s role in these crimes.
Madigan said campus stalking is a growing problem and wants to provide tools for campus law enforcement on how to prevent the crime and enforce the law. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 3.4 million people age 18 or older are victims of stalking each year.
“College campuses provide an ideal environment for stalkers because it is so easy to track a college student’s movements,” Madigan said at the forum. “Class schedules, meal plans, set practice times and study groups make for predictable daily routines. Add to that social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, where personal information is easily accessible, and students can become prime stalking targets.”
Madigan said 83 percent of stalking incidents are not reported to the police or campus law enforcement because victims don’t think the incidents will be
“Even when victims know there is danger, it can be difficult for law enforcement to recognize, investigate, prosecute and convict stalkers,” Madigan said in her address.
Tia Love, senior arts, entertainment and media management major, said she reported an incident to the Chicago Police Department in 2009 when she noticed an unidentified male following her on campus.
“The guy would hang around the University Center [of Chicago],” Love said. “I know it happens often, but a lot of people don’t report it and are either too scared or don’t think much of it.”
Love said the man was arrested after she called the number on her police report after seeing him around the University Center again and encourages others dealing with similar situations to seek help, too.
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, more than one in four stalking victims reported some form of technology used in a stalking crime.
Robert Koverman, associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security, said since he’s been employed at Columbia, he hasn’t received any complaints of stalking. But with the growing use of social media, he’s surprised there haven’t been any reported.
Koverman said if a student thinks he or she is a victim of campus stalking, he or she should contact campus security, the dean of students or resident assistants if he or she lives in campus housing.
“Often times people aren’t aware that what is happening on their social networks is a crime,” Koverman said. “We need to be more involved in terms of educating our community and not just students. There are certain things that are unacceptable, and stalking is one of them.”
Koverman said websites such as LikeALittle.com, which allows students to post anonymous flirts about other students around campus, concern him.
“[It] bothers me a lot of people will use that for anonymous flirting,” Koverman said. “Once you’re doing that, it can lead to physical confrontation if someone likes what someone says.”
The NCSA said cyberstalking can include repeated e-mails or texts that make a victim fearful, and three in four stalking victims are stalked by someone he or she knows.
Koverman said text messaging can pose threats when people start texting innocently with a person they’ve met on the Internet and can lead to violent situations.
“Cyberstalking is an issue,” he said. “People don’t even realize it because they don’t know what the other person’s agenda is.”