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State Senate approves Stavisky stalker bills

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The state Senate approved a package of bills last week aimed at strengthening and expanding protections for crime victims, senior citizens and stalking targets under the leadership of Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone).

The bills come in response to a number of recent cases involving murder victims who were stalked and abused in incidents that may have been preventable had tougher laws been in place, Stavisky said.

“They strengthen the penalties and expand the victim notification system, which I think is especially important because there have been several instances in Flushing where women have been killed because their orders of protection had expired,” she said. “It increases the penalty for stalking from a Class B misdemeanor in one case to a felony. That’s a significant increase because you hear horror stories of people being stalked and it’s not just the victim whose life is being destroyed, but also the family and even the perpetrator’s families.”

The bills, which were introduced by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) in response to the murder of an abuse victim there who was not notified when her abuser was released from prison, will help address issues Stavisky said came to the forefront following the January 2010 murder of Flushing resident Qian Wu. Police said she was allegedly murdered by a man against whom she had repeatedly gotten orders of protection.

The legislative package, if passed by the state Assembly — where it is currently in committee — would expand the automated victim notification system to include protective orders, increase penalties for stalking and direct the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence to develop and promote senior center-based domestic violence protection programs.

Wu’s husband, Yongwei Guo, has filed a $15 million lawsuit in Queens Supreme Court against the NYPD for allegedly ignoring his repeated pleas to help Wu in the weeks before her death. Guo contends that he had on three occasions requested that police renew an order of protection barring Huang Chen — the man accused of killing his wife — from coming near her, but was denied each time.

The suit has yet to be resolved, and Chen has not yet been deemed fit to stand trial.

Domestic violence is on the rise, according to statistics released by Stavisky’s office. Between 2007 and 2008, intimate partner homicides increased 25 percent statewide and 45 percent in counties outside New York City, and the 31 Domestic Violence courts handled more than 31,000 cases in 2008, an increase of nearly 7,000 from 2007.

Stavisky has fought to address the failures of the system to protect Wu since last June.

“In January, one of my constituents was killed by a man who stalked and harassed her for years,” Stavisky said then about the need to increase protections for stalking victims. “She obtained orders of protection against him, and if these laws had been in place at the time, she may have had more legal recourse and protection against him.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 10:33 am, October 12, 2011
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