The Police Department has issued its employees written directives dealing with stalking and harassment complaints. Both the Maryland Legislature and Prince George’s County Council have recognized the importance of protecting citizens victimized by these crimes; these legislative bodies have enacted legislation addressing these important issues.
Stalking occurs when a person persistently frequents the location of another, thereby placing that person in fear. In may cases, the stalker is a person who had a former personal relationship with the victim. An example of a stalking scenario would be a male stalking a former girlfriend. Previously, Maryland police officers were limited to making arrests only after an attack occurred against a victim. In many cases, a stalker would sit in a vehicle, on the public roadway, in front of the victim’s house. Officers called to the scene had no legal right to order the stalker to leave the area. Now, officers in Prince George’s County are lawfully empowered to take active steps to remove stalkers, and forcefully investigate these stalking incidents proactively, before they can result in tragedy. These steps include immediate supervisory oversight to ensure that public safety is assured in these matters, consistent with law.
When an officer initially investigates a stalking incident, he completes a police report and notifies his supervisor. That supervisor examines the circumstances of the incident and assesses whether an imminent danger exists to the victim. In this assessment, the supervisor considers the stalkers:
- Previous behavior toward victim
- Criminal record
- Psychological stability
- Apparent ability to harm the victim or carry out his/her threats
- Access to victim
- Access to weapons
When an imminent threat is identified to supervisor ensures that the District Investigative Section and respective commander are notified. An investigator is immediately assigned to begin an investigation to determine how to resolve the matter, e.g., issuance of an arrest warrant.
If you are a stalking victim contact your local district stations for advice. If you feel endangered, request that an officer be sent to assist you. If the situation is an emergency, summon assistance by dialing 911.
Harassment is a legal definition, which does not have the element of fear present in stalking cases. Harassment victims are more often bothered by their harassers (as opposed to frightened). The harassment becomes an inconvenience to the victims. However, we consider harassment to be a serious law enforcement issue, and believe our citizens have a justified expectation to be free from intrusions in their personal lives. If you are being harassed contact your local district station.
In harassment cases, the investigating officer completes a police report, and provides advice to the victim as to possible prosecutorial steps. Such steps might include the application for a Statement of Charges from a District Court Commissioner. That application could result in the issuance of an arrest warrant; or summons to appear for court. As in stalking cases, I assure you that our officers will be responsive to the victims’ situations.
The Prince George's County Police Department is one of the first Maryland agencies to publish written directives addressing stalking and harassment complaints. We have been proactive in promulgating procedures for officers to follow in these instances. To that end, I have instructed my six District Commanders to ensure that the provisions of the stalking and harassment laws and Departmental directives are reviewed with all uniformed personnel through roll call training. I have further directed the Commander, Training and Education Division, to ensure that new recruit training include, as part of the conflict negotiations and family violence training objectives, role-play scenarios involving these situations.
The Prince George's County Police Department has and will continue to expend considerable effort to address these two very serious problems. Fortunately, our task has been made much easier because of community interest and assistance. As we begin to implement these new policies and training programs, we will continue to look to the community for feedback and guidance. Should you have any questions or suggestions concerning this or any other police/community issues, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to call or write at any time.
County Police Central Switchboard (301) 336-8800
District I (301) 699-2630
District II (301) 390-2100
District III (301) 772-4900
District IV (301) 749-4900
District V (301) 856-3130
District VI (301) 937-0910