ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Stalking incidents on the University of New Mexico campus are going up, even during a year when hardly any students were actually on campus. That is in part because some stalkers are turning to technology to track their victims.

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In a year where hardly anyone was actually on UNM’s campus, stalking incidents went up by 33%. UNM leaders say that’s because some stalkers are turning to virtual tactics. “We use the term stalking in a casual sense to just talk about following people on social media. This is not what we’re talking about,” said Áine McCarthy, with UNM’s Women’s Resource Center (WRC).

McCarthy says they’re getting reports of stalking that starts with an individual seeing a picture of an eventual victim on social media or dating app. “People can use reverse image search to find out more information about you than you had chosen to share in that space,” McCarthy said.

They can find things out like where you to go school or where you work. McCarthy says what may start as ‘online stalking‘ often doesn’t stay there. “By the time we’re seeing these issues, it’s a matter of physical safety. The online aspect is just a way for people to get information to access someone’s physical location and invade their privacy,” McCarthy said.

In 2020, 12 stalking incidents tied to on-campus housing were reported. “Probably half and half, you know some are virtual and some are the traditional things where people feel like they want to follow or stalk their spouses, partners, exes,” said Francie Cordova, UNM chief compliance officer.

Cordova said they also got reports of people making fake profiles to sneak into Zoom classes in an attempt to harass their victim or the entire class. “We’ve also done a lot with our IT division, in terms of IT security,” Cordova said.

In some cases, it’s a matter of educating aggressors.

“For some people it was, well you know, they didn’t respond back to the first two times I DM’d them, so I did it again. So instead, talking about what those social cues might be, how to kind of read the room a little bit better,” said Title IX Coordinator Angel Catena.

However, in more serious cases, the Women’s Resource Center will come up with individualized safety plans. WRC believes their office is only going to get busier as people leave the house and get back into the real world.

“We’re still seeing the fallout from that. We’re still seeing people come out of unsafe situations they may have been stuck in,” McCarthy said.

WRC is looking for a mechanic or auto body shop they can partner with to help look for tracking devices on stalking victims’ cars. If you’d like to help, visit women.unm.edu.