Stalking in the States
Data Sources -
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Sources of Stalking Data
There are five common sources of data available in the states: law enforcement, victimization surveys, service providers, victim compensation offices, and health/medical agencies. Since law enforcement agencies follow strict legal definitions and usually report data to the state Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, most of the statistics available at the state level on stalking are law enforcement data. Since these data represent only incidents that are known to the police, it is widely viewed that many offenses are underrepresented in these data. This is especially true for acts of violence against women, whose victims may not report to the police because of fear of reprisal, embarrassment, or financial dependence on the offender. Using only one source of data, therefore, provides an incomplete picture of the amount of violence being experienced.
Law Enforcement Data
Stalking offenses are not reported separately to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) but are often included in state reports. Most states publish an annual crime report using law enforcement data (Crime in Florida, for example). These reports often use the FBI's Crime in the US publication as a template, but most also include additional information, such as stalking and domestic violence offenses. Due to the varying definitions from state to state, however, these data can not be used for comparisons between states or to create a national estimate.
Random surveys of the public can also provide information, particularly on incidents that are not reported to the police, or, in this case, are not collected by the FBI. These surveys generally collect information in addition to what is collected by law enforcement agencies. Research has suggested that the anonymity of speaking to a researcher on the phone rather than in person may allow victims to discuss criminal incidents that they are unwilling to report to the police, or may allow for the recording of crimes victims may have deemed too insignificant to report. In this way, incident-based survey data can be gathered to provide an alternative source of data to estimate crime rates.
The downside of victimization surveys is that participation is often limited to those with telephones who are home when the surveyor calls and who voluntarily opt to participate in the program. Populations that may be most at risk, such as low-income or transient families, may not be included in these kinds of data collection efforts.
The National Crime Victimization Survey is funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and is conducted by the Census Bureau twice a year. Several states have instituted statewide surveys as well. Few states, however, conduct victimization surveys on a regular basis. Like the law enforcement data, victimization survey data are usually made available to the public in the form of reports. In the case of the NCVS, however, participants and any reported incidents cannot be identified by city or state, only region (Northeast, Midwest, South or West). In 2006, BJS added a one-time stalking supplement to the annual survey and collected information on incidents classified as stalking by interviewers. Interviewers identified 78,741 individuals who had been experienced at least one stalking incident in the study period; 65,272 individuals completed the supplemental interview resulting in 42,697 identified cases of stalking.
Service Provider Data
Agencies that provide services to victims often keep statistics; at the very least, the number of people receiving services is often required to fulfill grant obligations. All states have coalitions that exist at the state level; most have separate coalitions for domestic violence and sexual assault. The role that each takes differs from state to state. Some coalitions function as data collection agencies with sophisticated reporting systems and standardized report forms. Others collect no information and act as lobbyists or provide technical assistance to local programs.
Service providers are often required to report statistics as stipulated by granting agencies at the state or federal level. Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants have allowed for states to pass federal money to local agencies to provide services to victims of domestic or sexual abuse and stalking. Often agencies are required to report summary statistics and, less frequently, incident-based statistics to the granting agencies. Service providers and coalitions may provide some statistics on their Web sites, and some produce annual reports containing summary data. The data provided to funding agencies are rarely published or made available to the public.
Service providers often collect a wide variety of information on clients. Some also collect information on whether the incident was reported to police, allowing for the potential to use both law enforcement and service provider data without the issue of duplicate events. The table below summarizes the data currently being collected. Although the data collected are not specific to stalking, stalking victims may seek services at a domestic or sexual violence service provider and are included in the provider's reported statistics.