By Haley Bartlett, Assistant News Editor —
UTC students received various emails in the year of 2017 reporting incidents of crime, but more specifically, stalking incidents. However, many of them weren’t as serious as they seemed.
Due to the Clery Act, a federal statute that was passed after a student was murdered in her dorm at Lehigh University in 1998, all campuses are obligated to send out emails informing students and faculty of all crime related activity and the sources available.
Anitra Barrett-Williams, the Clery Compliance Director for UTCPD, explained that the Clery Act has a slightly different definition of stalking than the state’s statute called Tennessee Code Annotated.
“The Clery Act gives a very specific definition of stalking,” Barrett-Williams said, “when a person engages in a certain type of conduct giving the other person to either fear for their or someone else’s safety or causes severe emotional distress.”
Barrett-Williams added that the year of 2017 brought in 17 reports of stalking. Out of those reports, two were within the residence halls as stated within the Clery Geographical standards. If it is a stalking incident through any technological device or in person, the area in which the victim receives any message or action is deemed the location.
A majority of the occurrences are between people that know each other as opposed to strangers. This delves into friendships, previous or current dating relationships, or classmates, leaving most of the reports to not be as life threatening as others.
As stats have shown, which are published annually by UTCPD, the majority of the reports are not true offenses. 2017 reported to have seven out of seventeen offenses that went to the court systems.
The year of 2016 had a total of 28 stalking reports, showing a decrease in reports. Barrett-Williams said the change had to do with the level of fear reported.
“They’ve shifted directions a little bit, the person needs to express explicitly that they fear for their safety or that they are suffering from severe emotional distress,” she said. “The number has decreased primarily because of that fear consideration.”
Barrett-Williams also said the severity and validity of the reports depends on the victim and their perspective when it comes to the cases she handles. All of the cases get passed onto Harry Wolverton, UTC Sergeant-Sexual Assault Relationship Violence Liaison Officer.
Wolverton said that stalking reports put a lot of burden on the victims when it comes to the prosecution.
“Stalking is a very difficult crime to prosecute,” Wolverton said. “Standard for a conviction is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ and all cases are different.”
Stalking, when prosecuted, is a class A misdemeanor gaining no more than 11 months and 29 days in prison and a fine up to $2,500, but Wolverton said it can be on either end of the spectrum.
“Punishment of the crime always depends on the court system,” he said.