I-Team: New legislation pitched in Austin as stalking goes high-tech

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by Jeff McShan / 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 16, 2011 at 11:09 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 16 at 11:58 PM

HOUSTON – Last month in Austin, the governor's wife Anita Perry joined advocacy groups to push for tougher state stalking laws as technology makes spying on someone easier than ever before.

The groups recognized that 1 in 4 stalkers now use technology, such as GPS devices and hidden cameras, to track their victims and they say it's time the laws are modified to protect victims.

“Stalking is where domestic violence was 20 or 30 years ago,” said Rebecca White, the president and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center. “And yet the law hasn't caught up with that. We are not treating it the same way as domestic violence, or sexual assaults, even though the cause is the same and the victims are the same and the impact is the same.”

Senate Bill 82, backed by Sen. Jane Nelson from Flower Mound, would change the stalking law to make stalking behavior easier to prove.

Senate Bill 250 would allow stalking victims to get a protective order even if they have not been a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. It's being backed by Sen. Judith Zaffirini from Laredo.
White supports the effort in Austin.

“It's important to understand that stalking comes from the same place as domestic and sexual violence. It is all about power and control,” White said.

At SpyEmporium.com we found all kinds of tracking devices legally sold like a reverse peephole you can put on a door.

The device was allegedly used by Michael David Barrett who stalked ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. He was sentenced to two-and-a half years in prison.

Online it’s easy to find new spy software which allows you to listen in on phone conversations and track text messages and e-mails.

Police said that's exactly what Dieter Werner was using. He allegedly stalked a Houston woman using a GPS tracking device attached to her car. Werner used a laptop to track his victim's every move, and would haunt her by sending her text messages to prove it, according to court documents.

He is currently being held without bond in a Harris County Jail. His day in court is scheduled in May.
Every year 3.4 million Americans are victims of stalking, according to the U.S. Department of Justice About half of those said the stalker made some sort of contact with them at least once a week.

When women are murdered in this country, more often than not, the killer turns out to be a current or ex-partner; and in 90 percent of those homicides the victims were stalked first.

The most common fear expressed by the victims was not knowing what was going to happen next.

“I never know if the next step that I take, the next breath that I take will be my last,” said a woman who only wanted to be identified as Ann.

In 2008 Ann said she was being stalked by her ex-husband. She said she had been living in fear for years and once wrote a letter to her children just in case.

“It basically said goodbye to my children -- who I am in fear that I really won't get a chance to watch them grow up,” Ann said.

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