Law enforcement gives advice on stopping harassing phone calls

News 12 First at Five / Monday, July 16, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Wendy Dutch lives in a constant state of fear.

"He threatened to show up at my house and take care of me. I think he may have wanted to kill me at one point if I didn't do what he wanted me to do," she said through a shudder.

Dutch says a man has been sending her unwanted phone messages.

"The first time it was, 'Oh, I want to be there for you because you have cancer,' and the second time it was, 'You're gonna do this for me and if you don't this is going to happen,'" she said as she revealed how the messages quickly changed tone.

According to Georgia law, that would be harassment.

"If you're getting a lot of phone calls, people calling you and you've told them not to call anymore, they continue to call, that's where it would fall into harassment," explained Richmond County Sgt. Ronald Sylvester.

Dutch is not the only one dealing with this. It happens more than you may realize.

"There's been an increase in harassing phone calls and that's because it's easier for people to get cellphones and stuff, so there's more ways for people to communicate," Sylvester said.

The punishment for harassing phone calls is a misdemeanor charge, but officers say it's a tricky offense to prosecute.

"It's usually a he-say, she-say incident where a lot of times you don't have the proof," Sylvester said. In these cases, there's not a whole lot law enforcement can do.

"We cannot block the calls, so a lot of times it ends up being on the victim to take those steps to help protect themselves, and then we can help them proceed with prosecution,"Sylvester said.

That means recording the conversations, keeping the texts and even getting records from your phone company can all help prove your case.

"No woman deserves to go through this, married or single. It's scary, and it does a lot to you mentally and physically," Dutch said.

Dutch has not been able to prosecute because of the difference in laws between Georgia and South Carolina, but she is working on getting a restraining order.


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