Stalking recidivism: A comparison of operational definitions.

Bendlin, M., Sheridan, L., & Johnson, A. (2020).
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1 – 23.
Type of Profession:

This study analyzed a dataset of police incident reports involving 404 stalking offenders to determine time to recidivism and predictors of recidivism. The results of the study show that stalkers reoffend quickly.

Expanded Abstract: 

The criminal offense of stalking is qualitatively different than other offenses due to the repetitive and often multifaceted nature of the crime. Given that stalking constitutes several different kinds of behaviors (e.g., violence and threats), research on stalking recidivism becomes difficult. That is particularly true as recidivism can be defined in a number of ways. Considering the relative infancy of stalking as a legally proscribed crime, it is perhaps not surprising that research on stalking recidivism is sparse. Nevertheless, the existing literature does appear to show high rates of stalker recidivism, though these rates vary across studies (Malsch et al., 2011; McEwan et al., 2019; Rosenfeld, 2003).

This study utilized a dataset of Western Australia Police Force incident reports, comprising a sample of 404 stalking offenders. Varied data analysis methods were used to determine the time to recidivism and the predictors of recidivism. The study used four different definitions of recidivism. Predictor variables included age of the offender, prior history of criminal charges, and offender ethnicity. The four definitions ranged from narrow (a new stalking charge) to broad (any new criminal charge). The results of the study show that stalkers reoffend quickly, however our understanding of how fast and which offender characteristics predict recidivism, is dependent on how we define repeat offending. This highlights the importance of considering how stalking recidivism is defined in future works and may explain current differences in stalking recidivism findings.

This study found that many stalkers did reoffend and that when they did, they did so quickly. However, the rates and time to recidivism varied depending on how stalking recidivism was defined. When stalking recidivism was defined as a new stalking charge, 8.7% of offenders reoffended within the observation period, with a median reoffending time of nine weeks. When stalking recidivism was classified as any new stalking or harassment charge, 38.2% of offenders reoffended within the observation period, with a median reoffending time of 10 weeks. The most general definition of stalking recidivism, any stalking-related charge, produced a reoffending rate of 40.8%, with a median time of 10 weeks until re-offense. Finally, when looking at any new crime committed by the offenders, the overall recidivism rate was 54.5%, with a median reoffending time of 13 weeks.