Do you sometimes feel like you’re being watched?
Victims of stalking know the feeling all too well. You are not paranoid. Cheap, easy-to-use GPS tracking devices target the backs of stalking victims, and Indiana’s current law does not protect victims.
Last summer, Fox 59, as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contacted me and brought to my attention a horrific situation. In 2021, an Indianapolis woman, Millie Parke, filed a protection order against her ex-boyfriend, but a series of not-so-random coincidences led her to believe he was following her. She took her dog and ran. Parke sat in her car in a dark gas station lot and booked a hotel on Priceline to avoid her abuser.
Indiana General Assembly 2023:Indiana bills would make it illegal to covertly track people through devices like AirTags
Before Parke knew it, her ex-boyfriend rammed her vehicle with his. She tried to drive away, but he jumped in the car and started stabbing her. She was left bleeding on the cold concrete, and a 14-inch scar that ran down her chest after life-saving surgery is a vivid reminder of just how close Parke came to death.
Police discovered that Parke’s ex-boyfriend had placed a GPS tracking device on her car without her knowing. He didn’t have to be particularly tech-savvy. GPS devices are now easy to order and install and often only require a smartphone to operate.
GPS trackers are not all used for nefarious purposes. Frequent flyers like to use them to track their luggage. Military families have had great success keeping track of their belongings as they move between duty stations. Some of the simplest, like Apple AirTags, cost less than $30 each and only require the user to have an iPhone or iPad.
When a GPS tracker enables a perpetrator to track a victim, legal action must be taken. After learning Parke’s story, we delved into the law. We have found that Indiana law has not kept pace with these technological advances, leaving victims without protection. Our state is not alone either, as addressed in a recent Vice article, “The Legal System Is Completely Unprepared for Apple AirTag Stalking.”
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The Indiana General Assembly has just begun its 2023 session, and I introduced Senate Bill 83 to address the unlawful prosecution of an individual without their knowledge. My bill would make attaching a device a Class C offense and increase penalties if the victim had already issued a protective order against the offender. If the GPS tracker is used to commit a crime, as in the Parke stabbing, prosecutors will seek harsher sentences for such heinous crimes.
As a state, we need to ensure our laws stay current with the latest technology that criminals use against Hoosier victims. Can we stop many would-be stalkers from using GPS tracking technology in our state? I think we can, and to prevent more Hoosiers like Millie Parke from suffering, we definitely have to try.
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State Senator Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, represents Senate District 15, which includes part of Allen County.