January is National Stalking Awareness month.
It's a time dedicated to raising the understanding of stalking and it's dangers.
And police say it's important to know the signs and reach out to them at the first sign of danger.
When most people hear the word stalker, they imagine a stranger in dark clothing lurking around a corner.
But experts say most victims are stalked by a person they know.
“Nationally, there's about 7.5 Million people who are stalked in the United States,” One Safe Place executive director Angela Jones said. “85 Percent of those people know their stalker.”
Jones says stalking can often be tied to domestic violence.
She says 44 percent of men and 61 percent of women are stalked by either a current or a former intimate partner.
“When that abused party leaves a relationship, then the abuser loses control,” Jones said. “And oftentimes the stalking can happen after that, and it can escalate. So if there is somebody out there that is stalked, they need to take it very serious, call law enforcement, come and see us at One Safe Place or call our crisis line.”
Police say it's important to recognize the signs of stalking.
They say it can start out with something as small as sending unwanted gifts, or showing up to your home or job.
And Redding Police Department Sergeant Jon Poletzki says it can quickly escalate to threats and in extreme cases death.
“Stalking a lot of time will escalate and move up in types of crimes that they're doing,” Poletski said. “So they'll start out maybe with a Facebook post and then it will go on to a contact in person and it continues to grow.”
Poletski says if you do believe you're being stalked, the most important thing to do is let police know early.
“Every situation and every relationship is different,” he said. “But if you feel that you are being stalked in any way through media, through phone calls, through somebody following you or something along those lines, immediately contact your law enforcement agency and report that.”
Technology is also playing an increasing role in stalking, so experts warn to be mindful of what you post online and disable geolocation on your smartphone and social media.