The family of Jackie Wisniewski is now all too familiar with how technology has evolved to sometimes give the upper hand to criminals. Family members recently gathered to support proposed legislation, known as Jackie’s Law, that would allow police to file felony charges against anyone who installs a GPS tracking device in order to stalk another person.
Wisniewski was shot to death inside Erie County Medical Center, where she worked, last June 13. Her stalker and killer, Dr. Timothy V. Jorden Jr., had installed a tracking device in her vehicle. He was able to show up regularly wherever she was, until she discovered the device in March 2012. He also sent dozens and dozens of electronic messages and she lived in fear of him, even keeping a hammer under her pillow.
Although she went to the West Seneca police with the GPS device, her family assumes she must have decided not to press charges. No one knows, although her brother wonders if she worried about setting her stalker off.
Three months later, Jorden shot her to death and later took his own life.
Whether legislation like the bill introduced by Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, would have saved her life is anyone’s guess, but it is strongly supported by Wisniewski’s family.
There is currently no statute that specifically outlaws the use of GPS devices in stalking cases. Jackie’s Law speaks directly to the use of a GPS device to track a person’s movement without his or her consent. The law would add that action to the list of crimes included under second-degree unlawful surveillance, a Class E felony that can result in a prison sentence of up to four years.
A key point of this legislation is that it allows law enforcement to prosecute stalkers simply for violating that statute, without requiring the victim to press charges or file for an order of protection. In other words, it protects people who might otherwise hesitate to act.
Kennedy’s office points out that back in 2006, nearly 100,000 stalking cases nationwide involved the use of GPS devices, and such tracking devices are becoming smaller, cheaper and easier to use all the time.
The legislation is a response to the misuse of what is usually helpful technology. Law enforcement must remain vigilant for such harmful uses. For now, Jackie’s Law should get bipartisan support.