Last week, I walked into the office of the photographer we use for taking product pictures of our knives, tactical bags, water filters, etc. As he was setting up for that day’s shoot, he casually said, “Did I ever tell you about the time I was stalked?”
That’s one way to get my attention.
Once Upon a Time
A few years ago, my photographer — let’s call him Jim — arrived at work one day to find the huge glass windows in his storefront completely shattered. As Jim surveyed the damage, he found several large ball bearings on the ground. He immediately called the police and filed a report, but there weren’t any leads, so it didn’t go anywhere.
A few weeks later, Jim showed up to work to discover his newly repaired windows were smashed out again, with more ball bearings littering the ground. He replaced the windows again only to have them destroyed for the third time.
And that’s not all. Jim also owned a plot of land he used for outdoor shoots. Someone — in all likelihood the same person who kept busting up the store windows — poured toxic chemicals on the land, completely killing all of the vegetation
By that time, Jim was understandably frightened. He applied for a concealed carry permit and started carrying a gun regularly. He installed security cameras at his store and even started spending the night there so he could catch the criminal vandalizing his property.
Sure enough, one night while Jim was sleeping at his store, he awoke to the sound of breaking glass. He rushed out of the store to see a man hop into a pickup truck and take off. Jim grabbed his phone, called 911 and gave the dispatcher a detailed description of the vehicle.
Jim thought he was safe for the moment because he assumed his stalker had fled. Instead, the man had simply drove around the block to come back and shoot ball bearings at Jim. How crazy is that?
When the police arrived, they quickly surrounded the truck and arrested the man. In the front seat, the police found a slingshot and a large supply of ball bearings.
I asked Jim if he knew the guy. It turns out it was another photographer in town who was jealous of Jim’s success. He claimed Jim was taking all of his clients and putting him out of business.
The other photographer went to trial and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. Ten days. Which is ridiculous considering all of the damage done to Jim and his business.
It Could Happen to You
Now, in my line of work I expect to receive threats and deal with harassment from weirdos. But the fact that this happened to a self-employed photographer in small-town USA shows that it can happen to anyone in any profession.
If you’re being stalked, here are five things you can do to protect yourself and hopefully put a stop to the torment.
1. Immediately stop all contact with the person. Of course, this only works if you know who is stalking you — unlike Jim, who had no idea who was terrorizing him. But if you’re being hassled by an ex-lover, jilted co-worker, angry neighbor or someone else who is familiar to you, be sure to ignore any messages they leave you on the phone or on social media. Make sure that your friends and family stop all contact, too.
2. Document everything. Save every voicemail and every note. A paper trail will come in handy if you need to take legal action. In Jim’s case, he kept detailed records of the damage and the cost of repairs. And that first police report was useful to establish the pattern of harassment.
3. Tell everyone you know that you’re being stalked. Don’t be embarrassed and keep this information from friends and family. Tell people so they’ll know to keep you safe. If Jim had talked to other local business owners, they could have kept an eye on his store and someone might have spotted the suspicious pickup sooner.
4. Check to see if you’re being tracked. If the stalker had access to your cellphone, check it for a tracking app or get a new phone entirely. Check your vehicle for a tracking device by looking underneath it to see if a small GPS has been attached to your car. It doesn’t appear that Jim was being tracked, but what if the criminal had been tailing him and followed him home?
5. Carry a weapon. If you’re trained to do so, carry a gun. Jim rushed out to get a concealed carry permit because he was truly afraid this person might come to his home and attack his family. If you don’t want to carry a gun, at the very least have your tactical pen on you.
The truth is a concealed carry permit is basically an inexpensive form of insurance. If you live in a state that issues them, I urge you to get one as soon as you can.
Don’t wait — because until that permit is physically on your person, you are not legally allowed to carry concealed. And you don’t want to find yourself in a situation like Jim’s without the means to protect yourself.