New law aims to stop stalkers



SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - For years, people who were being stalked couldn't get help. Police said there was nothing they could do until the stalker threatened the victim or worse. A new Florida law has changed that.

For three years going outside alone was out of the question for Jo Ann Lucarelli.

"Where is he? What's he going to do next? Is he following me? Is that his vehicle? Is that him coming? I couldn't go out of my house. Day or night, he was there," said Lucarelli.

Lucarelli, the vice mayor of Lake Mary. said she was stalked by her next door neighbor

But even in her position as an elected official, for years law enforcement officers couldn't do anything about it because the man hadn't physically attacked her.

"What does he want from me and why isn't something being done to stop him? Why this can't be stopped?" said Lucarelli.

Lucarelli helped pass a new law that went into effect in October. Now, victims do not have to encounter an act of violence for officers to make an arrest.

On Friday, area agencies met in Seminole County to learn how to enforce the new rules.

"Seventy-six percent of all women that are murdered have been stalked -- that's incredible. And this law allows us to go after those people before that happens," said Lake Mary Police Officer Zach Hudson.

According to experts, the stakes are higher than ever as stalkers use modern technology like cellphones to harass victims through phone calls and text messages, and with online social networking.

Over the past two years the Seminole County Sheriff's Office arrested 41 people for stalking. As officers learn how to use the new law Lucarelli expects those numbers to rise.

"Lives are going to be saved, lives will be saved from this," said Lucarelli.

In addition to Friday's program, Seminole County deputies will also undergo in-depth training with an advocacy group to more effectively use the new law.