Have you ever been stalked in Albany?

Caitlyn Cooper

January is National Stalking Awareness Month.

Stalking is a crime that affects 3.4 million people each year - some of them in Southwest Georgia.

One in four Americans will be the victim of a stalker in their lifetime.

"Stalking in Georgia is defined as contacting, placing under surveillance, a person for the purpose of harassing or intimidation," said Captain Jimmy Sexton of the Dougherty County Police Dept..

Examples of stalking include unsolicited, repeated phone calls and spying on a person's home or place of business.

It's a crime that's taken very seriously.

"Stalking often does escalate into something more serious â" into violence," said Sexton.

Caitlyn Cooper is with Lily Pad Center, which provides services to victims of physical and sexual abuse.

"It can definitely escalate to serious problems," said Cooper. "It starts as somebody sending you Facebook messages, or inappropriate letters, making gestures to you, showing up at events you show up at it."

There's certainly plenty of the traditional types of stalking that go on. But like the rest of society, it's advanced. More and more stalking isn't done on the streets, it's done surfing the internet.

"It's easy to stalk someone on Facebook," said Cooper. "We always tell our folks to look at your friend list and see who you add and who you allow to add. Just because your friends may know them, it doesn't mean you should add them."

If you feel you're being victimized by a stalker, your best defense is to trust your internal radar.

"If you feel fearful, if your gut instinct is that something is not right, then it's probably not right and you should do something about it," said Cooper.

"If someone has a concern, then they need to contact us," added Sexton.

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