ALBANY – Using an electronic device to follow someone with the intent of hurting them will be added to the definition of New York’s anti-stalking laws under legislation given final approval Wednesday by the State Senate.
The law was prompted by the 2012 shooting murder of Jackie Wisniewski in Erie County Medical Center, where she worked, by Dr. Timothy V. Jorden Jr., her estranged boyfriend who installed a GPS tracking device in her vehicle to follow her movements. Jorden later killed himself.
While stalking is already a crime in New York, the law had been silent on the use of GPS and other devices to track people.
Wisniewski found the GPS device installed in her car by Jorden three months before she was murdered in June 2012. He was using the device to show up at places she would be.
But she did not file charges against him when she found the device because, family members believe, she did not want to “send him over the edge” to commit violence against her.
The bill’s sponsors, State Sen. Timothy Kennedy and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, both Buffalo Democrats, said the U.S. Justice Department has estimated that one in 13 cases of stalking involve some sort of tracking device used against victims.
The legislation passed the Assembly on April 29. It will now go to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who is expected to sign it into law.
Officials say the new provision moves existing illegal surveillance statutes to the codes covering stalking, which they say can more easily allow victims to obtain court orders of protection in family courts while a case against alleged stalkers go before the criminal justice system.
That, officials said, can give additional routes for legal protections against stalkers.
The bill last year called for allowing police to charge a stalker using a GPS with a felony.
The final version approved Wednesday adds the new GPS provision to the existing fourth-degree stalking charge, which is a Class B misdemeanor.
“We wished it would have been stronger, but all the hard work we’ve put into it has led to a law that can prevent stalking,” David Wisniewski, the victim’s brother, said Wednesday.
The Wisnieski family has been pressing for two years to get the state legislation approved.