Leaving flowers on a doorstep or sending notes or gifts may seem harmless, but when the advances turn into a pattern of unwanted behavior, the activity is considered stalking.
Stalking can cause victims to live in fear, avoid family and friends, and also lose time from work.
A New York-based security expert says that with the increase in workplace violence, it is not only socially responsible, but good business, for companies to develop an effective threat-management program. Sal Lifrieri, owner of Protective Countermeasures & Consulting Inc., says regardless of the size of your company, an effective threat-management plan reduces the risks and liabilities to your organization. It also promotes increased employee productivity and morale.
More than 130,000 victims a year lose their jobs as a result of the effects of stalking, according to the U.S. Department of Justice 2009 annual report. With 15 percent of workplace homicides being a direct result of stalking cases, the criminal behavior has become the No. 1 concern of the top Fortune 1,000 companies, the security expert says.
“Victims of stalking need the help and assistance of the employers. Employers need to understand stalking has potentially deadly effects on everyone,” Lifrieri says. “By establishing a proactive program, you are protecting not only your organization and other employees, but most importantly you are protecting yourself.”
The first step in developing a company threat-management program is recognizing that stalking does exist. Once a plan is in place, Lifrieri says, it will give the victim and his or her co-workers the ability to remain productive and functional in their work environment.
Second, the company should also create several different methods for employees to report a potential stalking situation, such as in-person, phone calls, e-mails or traditional mail. Lifrieri stressed that the reporters should be able to provide the information to the company either openly or anonymously.
Learning and understanding the issues of stalking and how to effectively react to the problem is the third step in developing a company threat-management program, says Lifrieri, a former member of the Intelligence Division of the New York Police Department. “An employee suffering from a stalking situation will be dealing with a great deal of embarrassment. Realize a victim of stalking is a victim of a crime. Threats to the stalker to stop are ineffective,” Lifrieri says.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics in Washington, D.C., reports that 3.4 million people are stalked in the U.S. every year. While both men and women can be victims of stalking, women are nearly three times more likely to be stalked than men.
Depending on the case, Lifrieri says, an immediate arrest may not be the best course of action. In fact, the plan could backfire, increasing the stalker’s interest in the victim. He advises the victim and company to keep detailed records on when the stalker makes contact with the victim. Lifrieri says a good consultant with a background in threat management can help a company learn and understand the psychology of stalking.
Fourth, providing a safe environment for stalking victims – flexible schedules, escorts to vehicles, restricting personal information, purchasing panic alarms and employee counseling – is a way to support victimized employees, Lifrieri says.
The fifth step in creating a company threat-management program is establishing a conditional response to workplace violence and situations where violent crime is in progress. “While not all stalking cases become violent,” Lifrieri says, “it is imperative for an organization to have a plan in place prior to an event occurring. Thinking it can’t happen to you is not a defense.”
While at the New York Police Department, Lifrieri oversaw the Protective Operations Unit, where he developed protocols for threat assessment and investigations on elected public figures and their families. He was also a 12-year member of the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team.
Protective Countermeasures & Consulting, Inc., can be reached at www.protectivecountermeasures.com. For more information about workplace stalking, visit www.sallifrieri.com/stalking.