Stalking Unit


The new millennium is upon us, and as we merge onto the "information super highway" the law enforcement community faces many challenges. For almost every crime that occurs in the real world, police and prosecutors are also faced with responding to those that occur in the "virtual world."

Perhaps a starting point is to look at a comparison of stalking "offline vs. online."

Offline vs. Online Stalking

Similarities between offline and online stalking include:
The majority of cases involve stalking by former intimates.
Stranger stalking occurs in both.
Most victims are women; most stalkers are men.
Stalkers are generally motivated by the desire to control the victim.

There are also differences based upon the lack of direct contact between the cyberstalker and the victim, which can make it difficult for law enforcement to identify, locate and arrest the offender.

The cyberstalker...
...may be located across the street or across country.

...can more easily encourage third parties to harass and/or threaten a victim (e.g. impersonating the victim and posting inflammatory messages to bulletin boards and in chat rooms, causing views of that message to send threatening messages back to the victim "author.")

...can more easily harass and threaten because the cyberstalker does not need to physically confront the victim.

...can send repeated, threatening, or harassing messages by the simple push of a button.

...can, if they are sophisticated, use programs to send messages at regular or random intervals without being physically present at the computer terminal.

Adapted from "Cyberstalking: A new Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry," A Report from the Attorney General to the Vice President, August 1999.

Most common calls to investigate:

  • Threatening, harassing, or annoying e-mails.
  • The use of the Internet to harass the victim (such as posing as the victim in chat rooms; establishing a web site to post nude photos of the victim; recruiting others to engage in a campaign of harassment toward the victim; posting the victim's name, address, phone number and other personal information or provocative message on bulletin board systems, {the equivalent to the "for a good time call..." posting on a bathroom wall. Except this wall has worldwide exposure}).
  • The use of the Internet to research information about the victim. There are many free and paid subscriber services available on the Internet to obtain information about the victim, including addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, criminal or civil action records, DMV information, credit history, property records, etc.

Investigations of computer crimes

The investigation of cyberstalking and other computer crimes can be complex. One area of concern may be jurisdiction. The suspect may be in another state, or another country. For these issues consult your local District Attorney's office or the local U.S. Attorney's Office. If your police agency does not have specialists training in the investigations of computer crimes, consult some of the larger agencies that have special investigative units.


San Diego Computer and Technology Crime Hi Tech Task Force 619-531-3660

Cyberstalking Resources