In late February 2003, Debbie Riddle contacted the Stalking
Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime
Debbie’s sister, had been brutally murdered two months earlier by
a former boyfriend who had stalked her before killing her and then
himself. Debbie wanted to translate her family’s painful
tragedy into a force for positive change. In particular, she
wanted to find ways to improve law enforcement’s response to
stalking. She wanted to help save lives.
Debbie Riddle’s call set into motion a series of remarkable events
that within four
months resulted in a Congressional briefing, a concurrent
Congressional resolution, and a national television program
featuring Peggy’s story. On July 8, 2003, the National
Center for Victims of Crime, in partnership with Representative
Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Lifetime Television, brought Peggy’s
story to the attention of Congress at a briefing on Capitol Hill.
Debbie Riddle and Mark Sparks (Peggy Klinke’s boyfriend at the
time of her murder) described the terror of Peggy’s last months.
They shared how Peggy worked with the police, obtained restraining
orders, and even succeeded in having the case set for trial.
Yet six days before the trial date, Peggy was killed.
The briefing highlighted ways law enforcement can strengthen its
response to stalking. Speakers included Erin Brockovich, host of
Lifetime’s Final Justice; Diane Stuart, director of the Office on
Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice; Tracy Bahm,
director of the Stalking Resource Center, National Center for
Victims of Crime; and Mark Wynn, former police officer and
stalking expert. Susan Herman, executive director of the
National Center for Victims of Crime, moderated the briefing.
That same day, Representative Wilson—sponsor of the
briefing—introduced a resolution to support National Stalking
Awareness Month, which will focus a national spotlight on stalking
every January. (A copy of the resolution and more
information about National Stalking Awareness Month are available
Through their powerful statements, Debbie Riddle and Mark Sparks
urged both increased awareness and immediate action to help save
lives. And Mark Wynn outlined steps law enforcement can take
to prevent more tragedies like Peggy Klinke’s death.
Lifetime, which aired the Peggy Klinke story on Erin Brockovich's
"Final Justice" show, has also producing a 15-minute training
video called "Stalking: Real Fear, Real Crime." The
videotape is being distributed free to police departments around
Strengthening Law Enforcement’s Response to Stalking
According to Mark Wynn, former lieutenant of the Nashville
Metropolitan Police Department and a nationally recognized
stalking expert, all responsible elements in the criminal justice
system — law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, probation,
parole, corrections — should take responsibility to ensure that
the law keeps its promise to victims of stalking and domestic
violence. During the Congressional briefing, he outlined a series
of concrete recommendations for improving law enforcement’s
All stalking cases should be pursued vigorously.
The law has to be the same for everyone in this country, not just
someone of means or standing, such as a celebrity or politician.
Every domestic violence case should be looked at as a potential
When dating Peggy Klinke, Patrick Kennedy had shown the kind of
aggressive, controlling behavior that is typical of stalkers.
Years of study show that there are common signs before a violent
attack, a hostage situation, a murder. And stalking is at the top
of that list of signs.
Safety planning should become a top priority before and after an
Stalking victims don’t report because they are afraid of the
consequences of the report itself and what will happen to them.
Every stalking victim in this country who walks into a police
station, a sheriff’s office, or a prosecutor’s office should walk
out with a safety plan or have contact with someone in that office
who can work with the victim to develop a safety plan.
Victims should be active participants in safety planning.
Stalking victims deal with an incredible amount of anxiety.
Their active participation will help increase their trust in law
Violators of orders of protection should be aggressively pursued.
Protective order violations are strong pre-incident indicators
before murder. Protective orders should be available to all
stalking victims, not just in domestic violence cases, and weapons
prohibitions must be enforced.
Police officers, prosecutors, and judges should receive training
on how to identify stalking cases and the different types of
As with sex offenders, there are many different types of stalkers.
All are potentially dangerous. All must get the message that
their stalking behavior will not be tolerated.
Police officers should be trained in gathering evidence.
Lack of evidence makes prosecuting stalkers very difficult.
Stalking evidence is usually available, but officers are
frequently not familiar with how to collect and integrate those
pieces for prosecution.
Stalking protocols should be developed and implemented.
Law enforcement agencies should implement stalking protocols, like
those for high-speed pursuit, use of deadly force, and domestic
violence. Stalking protocols should require timely and
responsive incident investigations and include counter-stalking
strategies. There is no margin of error, no time to wait when
someone is being stalked.
Interagency agreements should be established between
Stalkers frequently cross state and county lines, and even
international borders, to reach their victims. Stalkers need to
know that law enforcement agencies won’t stop at jurisdictional
lines, that they will be pursued wherever they go, wherever they
repeat their stalking behavior. Police officers must be trained on
violations of the federal stalking law, which makes it a federal
offense to stalk someone across state lines or on tribal or
federal lands. Federal prosecutors also must be involved in this
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by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
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