BranFord News

Subscribe Now!

Oregon’s Stalking Law Enters The Modern Age, Thanks To Push From St. Helens Police Sergeant


Oregon’s Stalking Law Enters The Modern Age, Thanks To Push From St. Helens Police Sergeant

A St. Helens police sergeant found that 21st century safety needs 21st century laws, and he set out to usher in those changes.

After investigating a case involving a woman and her stalker, St. Helens Police Sgt. Matt Smith was inspired to go to Salem to change the state stalking law. His aim? To make it harder for potential stalkers to use the latest technological gadgetry to connect to potential victims.

The result of his work, in conjunction with victims and state lawmakers, is House Bill 4156, which passed both the House and the Senate and awaits final approval by Gov. Tina Kotek as of Tuesday afternoon, March 19.

It was a stalking case related to a woman’s ex-boyfriend that triggered Smith’s interest to pursue change in Oregon’s stalking laws.

“I actually had a stalking case that started here,” Smith told Pamplin Media Group. “She was pretty alarmed. She called here and she was really upset.”

Smith said Sgt. Jon Eggers, also with the St. Helens police force, had the woman go down to a local auto repair shop, where she found four GPS trackers hidden on her vehicle.

“She discovered that someone has applied these trackers, and we started an investigation here, and over the course of probably three or four months, we wrote multiple search warrants,” Smith said. “As we were slowly building our criminal investigation into this, I was pretty shocked to discover that, under our current law, that’s not an element of stalking.”

Smith reached out to state Reps. Kevin Mannix (R-Salem), who wrote the original stalking law nearly three decades ago, and Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro). Smith told them that there were serious lapses in the stalking statute, which had not been updated in close to 30 years, and something needed to be done.

“Kevin Mannix’s office said our current stalking law was put on the books in the age of fax machines,” Smith said.

Smith’s interest in the laws around stalking took another turn when he got in touch with Amber Rosenberry, who had also reported being a stalking victim.

“I sat down with her at a local Starbucks and we spent a couple of hours just mapping out what happened to her,” he said. “We just started hand-writing out what the new stalking statute should look like.”

Rosenberry recalled her harrowing experience and spoke to the importance of the legal updates that will usher in new, technology-based standards more necessary in this day and age.

“I had the experience as a stalking victim,” she said. “Someone was not happy that I decided I wasn’t interested in dating him anymore. Initially it was begging me to come back, then it was demanding that I come back. Then it became going after friends and family and threatening them and their children’s lives.

“… My life changed. I changed my job, I changed my car. I couldn’t go to any of the places I would normally be.”

Speaking of House Bill 4156, Rosenberry said, “It’s a big step to bring us into the modern era.”

Describing the details of House Bill 4156, Smith said “electronic contact” can now be included in allegations of stalking.

“If you have an ex-boyfriend or an ex-girlfriend, and you hack into their phone, their email system, their social media, that’s going to be considered contact,” Smith said.

Identity theft via online avenues, sharing explicit images online of someone without their consent and GPS tracking without the other party’s consent will now be included in the definition of stalking, thanks to the new law.

“A victim can now get a stalking order based on that conduct,” Smith said.

He added that the stalking law before this amendment’s passage equated to repeated, unwanted conduct that was alarming in nature. Contact, under the old statute, did not encapsulate electronic harassment and electronic remote tracking, according to Smith.

Smith expects the new legislation to enhance law enforcement’s ability to intervene in allegations of stalking in the modern age of technology.

“It’s going to give law enforcement the ability to conduct better stalking investigations,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to make it much easier for victims to get those protection orders.”

Ultimately, the new stalking law may help law enforcement investigate human trafficking.

“Something that I personally hope that this statute is used for is to rescue women who are being human trafficked and to provide more tools for them to get protection orders to keep them safe,” he said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *