Episode 09: Retired FBI Special Agent Barbara Daly
Retired FBI Special Agent Barbara Daly visits with Karen and Sabah to detail the elements of a stalking crime, advice on how to get help, and to tell the story of one of her more notable cases.
Barbara Daly is the Director of Training and Technology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She retired in April 2019 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), where she served for over 30 years, spending the majority of her career as a Special Agent in the New York Field Office. Prior to her retirement, she was one of the Crisis Management Coordinators for the FBI’s New York Office and as such, coordinated the FBI’s response to both large-scale planned events, such as the UN General Assembly and the US Open, as well as mass casualty and emergency events, such as the Tribeca Truck attack and the Port Authority subway bombing in 2017. From 2008 to 2017, she supervised the joint FBI/NYPD Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF), the first task force of its kind, originally formed in 1979 to combat a significant rise in armed and violent bank robberies throughout New York City. As such, she was responsible for managing a wide variety of violent crime investigations, to include armed bank robberies, kidnappings, home invasions, fugitives, commercial robberies, threats, extortions and stalking. For over a decade, Barbara also served as the FBI New York’s primary Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) Coordinator - the liaison between local, state and federal law enforcement entities and the FBI’s five Behavioral Analysis Units, as well as for the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program database (VICAP). Barbara was involved with the FBI’s Active Shooter program from 2007 to 2019 and regularly speaks on the topic of identifying, assessing and managing emerging threats and targeted attacks. Barbara has a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from New York University. She is also a Certified Threat Manager (CTM) through the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP).
Intro Voices [00:00:05] Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Intro Voices [00:00:31] This is “You Matter”, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman [00:00:36] Hi everyone and welcome back to You Matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire, and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion, and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your co-host Karen Ortman, Assistant Vice President of Field Operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcement professional.
Sabah Fatima [00:00:59] And I am Sabah Fatima, a pre-med graduate student here at NYU’s College of Global Public Health. If any information presented today is triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999.
Karen Ortman [00:01:13] Today we introduce Barbara Daly, a retired special agent with the FBI assigned to New York City and current director of training and technology at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Today we're going to talk about the crime of stalking. Special Agent Daly, thank you so much for joining us today. Can you please share with our listeners your background and how you developed an expertise in the crime of stalking?
Barbara Daly [00:01:38] Sure. Good afternoon Karen, good afternoon Sabah. Thank you for having me. When I was a graduate student, I became very interested in the crime of stalking and I studied it extensively. I wrote a thesis on the interstate stalking laws that existed at the time and when I started working on our violent crime squad, I realized that we were getting a lot of these cases and not a lot of people knew what to do with them. So I ended up investigating them at the investigator level and later I ended up supervising these investigations for quite a number of years.
Karen Ortman [00:02:17] And this is while you were with the FBI?
Barbara Daly [00:02:20] Correct.
Karen Ortman [00:02:22] So can you define the elements of the crime of stalking for our listeners? And speak about the evolution of stalking, which has been characterized by forensic psychologist, John Reid Meloy of The University of California San Diego, as an old behavior new crime.
Barbara Daly [00:02:36] Sure. So when Dr. Meloy made that statement that stalking is an old behavior or a new crime, what he meant was that it's been around for hundreds of years and it's only recently been criminalized. In about 1990, after the death of Rebecca Schaeffer—actress Rebecca Schaeffer—in Los Angeles by her stalker, there was a very good law that was created out of that. And in addition, there were also several deaths of women at the hands of their former intimate partners. So all of that was going on and was the impetus for powerful new stalking law. That's right around the same time that I was studying this, became interested in it. So each state has different elements—federal statute is a little bit different—but at its very base level, it pertains to an unwanted pattern of pursuit. There's either an implicit or an explicit threat and something that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear or the intent to induce fear in the victim and/or the victim's loved ones. When you talk about the federal statute, there's an interstate element to that. So for example, if somebody lives in New York and the stalker lives in New Jersey and crosses state lines to stalk that person, that could potentially be a federal violation. If somebody uses the mail system or if they use the internet to contact a victim , it could also potentially be a federal interstate stalking case.
Karen Ortman [00:04:09] I have a question. If you have an offender who lives in New Jersey and you have a victim who lives in New York—and that is two different states—and the offender is harassing by sending multiple—hundreds of text messages and hundreds of emails and hundreds of phone calls, but there's no physical presence to the victim in New York, is that considered crossing state lines?
Barbara Daly [00:04:42] It is. It is considered crossing state lines because they're either using the mail system, which is considered federal because it all moves interstate. And the same thing applies to use of the e-mail.
Barbara Daly [00:04:56] Just the fact that you have phone lines that cross states—that are run interstate—and computers run off that same system, so that gives us and the federal world nexus to investigate these cases.
Karen Ortman [00:05:11] And is that fact pattern that I just articulated, is that something that would rise to the level of a federal investigation?
Barbara Daly [00:05:19] Absolutely. It definitely could. If we're talking about one instance on social media or one letter that comes in the mail, probably not. But if we're talking about hundreds and if you're talking about an escalation—if all of a sudden we're seeing more and more of these come in—then it could definitely rise to the level of federal prosecution.
Karen Ortman [00:05:39] And is there a hotline number at the FBI, in the various offices, division offices, or smaller—what are they called—resident agencies? Are there hotline numbers where agents who handle these sorts of cases are housed and receive the sort of information from victims?
Barbara Daly [00:06:05] Not really a hotline, but we're staffed 24/7. So at anytime if anybody wants to make a complaint, they can contact their local FBI office. They can contact them by phone, they can contact them by email. And if that information is taken in, it goes through a vetting process where we give it an initial glance and then it gets farmed out to one of the investigators for further examination.
Karen Ortman [00:06:28] Is there ever an occasion where the FBI might say, you know, “There's 100 phone calls, hundred emails, hundred text messages, but we still think it's something that should be handled by the local police department, either in New Jersey or New York?”
Barbara Daly [00:06:47] Could possibly be. We have a number of task forces so we have a very good relationship with our local partners—and our communication with our local partners is ongoing. So if there was a circumstance like that, it would be very easy to communicate that information,make sure it fell into the right hands, and it would also be the same for our local partners. If they were in receipt of a complaint or information of this type of crime and they felt that it was better handled or better suited to federal jurisdiction, then they would contact us and we would take it from there.
Karen Ortman [00:07:18] Okay. Can you describe for our listeners what would be considered as red flag behaviors that maybe the, you know, the average person who's considering stalking and what it means to victims might not know?
Barbara Daly [00:07:35] Sure. So there are certain things that sort of will seem obvious to your listeners. You know, things like showing up in places where you have no business being, actively following somebody, you know, use of social media or the Internet or the mail to send letters, cards, gifts and things like that that are unwanted.
Karen Ortman [00:07:59] Can I just ask for clarification purposes—Is it correct that the crime of stalking does not require physical presence?
Barbara Daly [00:08:08] That is correct. So it could be physical following or it could be, you know, stalking by using cyber tools. And, you know, certain red flags trigger a greater concern from our perspective. So you might have, like I said before, an escalation in the behavior—all of a sudden there's much more contact or attempts at contact than before. Another red flag would be the level of obsession. So if we see that all of a sudden somebody—that it's actually interfering with their ability to hold a job or, you know, have a life, you know, then that would be a very high level of obsession. If we see an instance where somebody is trying to make contact, that would heighten our level of concern as well. Anytime somebody is actively seeking contact that puts them in the proximity of the victim —so that's what you need for there to be physical contact, that's what you need to be potential violence, is to be in the proximity of that victim. So anytime we see that—especially multiple attempts and especially when they're trying to cross state lines to do this—I would be much more concerned in that circumstance.
Sabah Fatima [00:09:26] Can you provide any statistics that pertain to victims and offenders based upon your training, education, and experience?
Barbara Daly [00:09:34] Sure. So one of the things we haven't talked about is the types of stalkers. So if I could just preface that—and again, going off the typology created by Dr. Kris Mohandie, Dr. Reid Meloy, McGowan and Williams back in 2006, called the recon typology. They’ve broken it down into two categories—one is where there is a previous relationship between the stalker and the victim and one is when there is no previous relationship between the stalker and the victim. They’ve further broken down previous relationship into two categories—intimate partner stalking, which is by far the most common and the most dangerous, and then acquaintance stalker, which is the next highest percentage. And under no previous relationship, you've got public figure stalking, which is considered the least dangerous and the least common—about 1 percent of these individuals will be violent, which could be a byproduct of the fact that these folks, by virtue of being in the public eye might have greater security. So that has been attributed to that—or private stranger, so think of when you don't know the person but you've had contact with them in some way. So you've got maybe a doctor/patient, you've got maybe the person who works at Starbucks and somebody who comes in, you know, a situation like that could be considered a private stranger. Approximately 7.5 million people are stalked annually in the United States and about 15 percent of those are women and about 5 to 6 percent are men. We think the crime is underreported, so those numbers are probably a little bit lower. But again, that intimate partner stalking is what we're most concerned with. You know—most common, most dangerous—over half of those folks will potentially become violent toward their victim.
Barbara Daly [00:11:27] It's estimated that as high as 80 percent of stalking victims have a prior relationship with their stalker. So that should tell you right there that that's the category that we're concerned with. And that's, you know, people who have been married, people who have been dating, former intimate partners, a current relationship— things like that.
Karen Ortman [00:11:48] It's interesting that you don't seem to read a lot about the crime of stalking being charged. Is that my imagination?
Barbara Daly [00:11:58] No, I think that's accurate. I don't think it's charged as frequently as it could be. And there are reasons for that. So a lot of times, there are several other crimes that make up the overarching crime of stalking. So sometimes it's more effective to arrest somebody or try and prosecute somebody for those other crimes, like harassment, burglary, trespassing and things like that that could be charged and—
Karen Ortman [00:12:29] Something more easily provable?
Barbara Daly [00:12:33] Absolutely. It's a difficult crime to prove because you've got that word, “intent” and intent is a very difficult thing to prove. A lot of these stalkers, when questioned, they will say, “I didn't intend any harm to come to the victim.” But yet, that doesn't make it any less frightening to the victim—it doesn't make it any less harassing to the victim. So I think that’s where a lot of these cases get hung up. I think some of our prosecutors can be reluctant to use this as a charging instrument, you know, for those reasons and the other thing is that it might not be the most effective way to deal with the behavior. Sometimes we're talking about mental health issues, so maybe there are better ways to address those concerns or maybe other ways to mitigate those concerns. So that's certainly a consideration. And these cases, even when prosecutable, don't carry a lot of jail time. So, you know, you might serve to further inflame the individual's feelings. It could be that the person's obsession grows when they're sitting in jail for 12 months or 18 months—which from what I've seen in the federal system, about one to two years is the typical sentence. So again, you've got a lot of a lot of byproducts—sort of unintended byproducts.
Karen Ortman [00:13:53] Hmm.
Sabah Fatima [00:13:53] Yeah. Thank you. I'm sure that you've seen a lot of high profile cases while assigned to the FBI in New York City. Can you share a case that might be educational to our listeners and inspire them to speak up and talk to someone?
Barbara Daly [00:14:07] Sure. Yeah. So we have had a large number of cases that have come across my desk, come into our office that we've investigated and managed to successfully prosecute a number of these cases, particularly involving high profile individuals. There's a case that I'm thinking of now where we use it as a “lessons learned” scenario, where our level of concern was heightened for a number of reasons. The victim had a lot of concern—this was a case that went on for about 10 years and 10 years is a long time.
Barbara Daly [00:14:41] There are a lot of effects when you're talking about the victim and the victim's family.
Karen Ortman [00:14:45] Are you saying that the behavior went on for 10 years or the investigation was 10 years long?
Barbara Daly [00:14:50] The behavior. So the stalking behavior went on for 10 years. Our investigation went on for about two to three years. This was a case that we started in 2014—we actually arrested the stalker in 2014. The stalker was put on an ankle monitor which is quite common. The stalker had not been arrested or I believe charged with a crime previously.
Karen Ortman [00:15:15] Was this stalker a male or a female?
Barbara Daly [00:15:17] The stalker was a female, the victim was a male. The victim did have a family—you know, children, a spouse—and our concern was for them as well. So this was behavior that went on to the victim and the victim's family for 10 years. And so like I said, we arrested the stalker, the stalker was out on pretrial release and from our perspective, had violated a number of conditions of her pretrial release.
Karen Ortman [00:15:45] Can you share with us what the behaviors were that led up to the ankle bracelet?
Barbara Daly [00:15:52] So it was primarily stalking using social media—using Twitter, Instagram, and platforms like that. There were several attempts at physical contact as well, so that gave us that heightened level of concern. We also saw what we perceived to be an escalation in the behavior. So the behavior went on for quite a number of years and all of a sudden, we saw it increase. And we also saw the tone and the nature of the content that was posted on social media get very aggressive—sort of very ominous, very threatening—and that's never a good sign. A lot of times when we see that escalation, there could be a trigger that acts as that that point to increase the behaviors.
Karen Ortman [00:16:40] And this victim had a social media presence, I presume?
Barbara Daly [00:16:45] That's correct. He did have a very active social media presence—again, you know, using platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and things like that. Our first piece of advice was to try and cut down the level of, at least, personal information that was posted on those platforms.
Karen Ortman [00:17:04] Did you ever—up to the point where the ankle bracelet was put on the offender or after the anchor ankle bracelet was placed—did you ever get any sort of statement from this person explaining their behavior?
Barbara Daly [00:17:19] No, I don't believe there was any level of insight or appreciation for the level of anxiety that she was causing him or his family—really no acknowledgement at all of the behavior.
Karen Ortman [00:17:35] And this person's profession was of a celebrity status?
Barbara Daly [00:17:43] Correct.
Karen Ortman [00:17:44] Okay.So what happened after the ankle bracelet was placed on the offender?
Barbara Daly [00:17:51] So the ankle bracelet was placed on the offender. It was about a two year period of—I really don't want to say relatively good behavior, because there were repeated violations and it was our hope that, you know, generally speaking, when you have violations of pretrial release, then that person doesn't get to be out on bail status.
Barbara Daly [00:18:15] That's revoked and then they have to go to prison and await their trial or any kind of plea agreements, but that never happened.
Barbara Daly [00:18:25] And unfortunately, I think when people see that there are consequences not being enforced, then I think it empowers them and sometimes they tend to act out even more. And that's certainly, I think, what we saw. In the end, she cut off her ankle monitor and went—we believe, in search of the victim—and so, that really heightened the level of anxiety for the victim and had heightened our level of concern. And a lot of the traditional methods that we would normally have of trying to find somebody were not at our disposal in this particular case, so we really had to go back to the basics. And one of the things we had to do was to increase the level of security by working with the people around our victim. The level of security around the victim was increased, the level of security at certain places where the victim was going was increased—and even in some of the towns where our victim was, the local police department put additional resources on because they were so concerned. One of the reasons that we were so concerned, other than what I've talked about here, is because there was another high profile case where a celebrity was killed by their stalker right at the same exact time period, and then a few days later, we had a major shooting incident that happened in Florida. So we had a lot of things going on that affected our decision making and the decision making of the victim as well.
Karen Ortman [00:20:01] So how did that case end?
Barbara Daly [00:20:03] And so it ended with—the stalker did show up at a place where our victim was, and it took us a while to correctly identify her because she was carrying false identification. She was initially detained by local police, and as she was waiting, she actually got away from their custody for a little while and made a further attempt in front of the police to make contact with our victim. So you can see, very aggressive behavior. So she was ultimately rearrested and transferred to custody of the FBI. And then, she did sit in prison for about a year until she was awaiting—sorry, it was about two years—and she was awaiting her final disposition.
Karen Ortman [00:20:55] And hopefully got some help.
Sabah Fatima [00:21:01] If someone thinks that they are being stalked, what would you advise them to do?
Barbara Daly [00:21:06] I would absolutely advise somebody to trust your instincts. If you think you're being stalked, then you probably are. The first thing I would do is if you feel unsafe, if you're in a situation where you feel unsafe, or if you feel that this is going on, please notify the authorities. I think generally the most appropriate place is to notify local authorities. If you're a college student, you definitely want to notify your public safety department. You want to make contact with those folks and you want to report the behavior to the local police department. Sometimes all they can do initially is to take your information and take your complaint. But some things that you can do in the meantime is to watch for these escalations, watch for an increase in frequency, behaviors, and patterns of behavior. You want to make sure that other people know about it as well, so tell everybody around—your friends, your roommates, your loved ones, your parents—make sure that they all know. This isn't something that should happen in isolation. The more people that know, the more safe that you can be, the more people that you have looking out for these behaviors. One of the things we advise victims to do is change their routine, so don't follow the same routine day in and day out. If you're going to class or if you're going to a job or going back and forth between two locations, try and vary your routes, times, and things like that. Try and be with somebody else, so safety in numbers—always be with another person if you can. Something that can be very helpful in the long run —because these cases often do last for years—they can keep a stalking journal or a stalking log. And by that, I mean write down dates, things that happen, what actions that you took, if any, and if there were any witnesses to the behavior. If somebody is reaching out on social media, keep screenshots of all of that. If somebody is calling and leaving messages, keep recordings of all of that. If somebody is sending you things, no matter how distasteful they might be, photograph them and try and keep those items because all of that will come into play when we get to the prosecution stage. You know, oftentimes people just want to get rid of it and they don't want to see it. They don't want to look at it, which is totally understandable. But there's a lot of help out there—
Karen Ortman [00:23:25] Would you say for the items that are gifts, for example, if possible, put the item in its entirety in a brown bag and store it there in the event that they could be dusted for fingerprints or some other evidentiary value could be obtained.
Barbara Daly [00:23:46] Sure. That's not a bad idea. You know, certain things need to be packaged in certain ways. But I think that's not a bad idea at all. As long as you're retaining that and again, take photographs because if that item does deteriorate over time, at least you have some sort of record of it.
Sabah Fatima [00:24:05] Special Agent Daly, is there anything that you'd like to add that we didn't already ask?
Barbara Daly [00:24:10] I just wanted to say thank you for having me and for trying to shed light on this important topic. You know, this has been an area of interest for me for a long time and I think the more we talk about it, the more we expose these behaviors and make people aware of what to do if they find themselves on the receiving end of these behaviors, I think the more safe we can be. Unfortunately, this is quite common. And, you know, it doesn't just happen on college campuses. It can happen to anyone at any point in their life for reasons that have nothing to do with them. This has to do with obsession and this really has to do with what's in the mind of the stalker, and generally speaking, not something that the victims have done and or in—
Karen Ortman [00:25:05] Power and control.
Barbara Daly [00:25:07] Absolutely. Especially when you're talking about intimate partner stalking—power and control. And you know, sort of, “If I can't have you, no one can.” And it's important to know that there's help available. You're not alone. And there are plenty of resources out there like The Stalking Resource Center or Safe Horizons and like I said, campus victim advocates and resources like that. So thank you for having me.
Sabah Fatima [00:25:33] Thank you.
Karen Ortman [00:25:33] Thank you.
Sabah Fatima [00:25:35] And thank you to all of our listeners for joining in on today's episode of You Matter.
Karen Ortman [00:25:39] If any information presented today was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212 443 9999. You can also get in touch with NYU’s Department of Public Safety and their victim services unit by calling 212 998 2222. For more podcasts like these, you can find us by searching for You Matter on Apple podcast or Google Play.