How to Report Harassing Text Messages to the Police
"Harassment" is legally defined as repeated, unwanted contact. This contact can come in any form, from in-person contact to internet or phone communications. Harassment via text message is yet another form that can be very brutal, emotional and scary for the individual being harassed.
Harassment does not have to be threatening to be "harassing."
It can take the form of abusive messages or text message "spam." Regardless of the situation, it is not legal nor justified and you have the right to take action.
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Step 1: Save the Harassment Data
Depending on your phone, you may be able to take a "screenshot" of the data. If your phone is not capable of doing so, you can use a camera to take photos.
You will also want to "Lock" or "Protect" each harassing message. But you still must be sure to have backup copies in the event that something happens to your phone so your data is not lost.
Step 2: Get Your Cell Phone Records
You should be able to login to your account and download your cell phone records. If you do not know how to access them, call your phone provider or Google Search "How to Get Phone Records for (Your Make/Model of Phone)." Be sure to save and also print the records that coincide with the harassment you are experiencing.
I suggest taking a highlighter and highlighting the exact lines on the records that show the harassment.
Step 3: Compile All Evidence
The most important step (besides having all of your evidence) is to organize it in a fashion that makes it easy for police to navigate through. File folders might help.
Lay out all of your data by "type." For example, one folder will be your photo evidence, a second folder will be your print-outs of your cell phone records, a third folder can consist of the proof of all the efforts you have made to stop the harassment; such as evidence via screenshot of you telling the offender to "stop harassing me" as well as any other efforts you have taken.
Another folder can consist of any "history" you have had with the harasser. For example, if the harasser is a former friend or date; compiling evidence of the relationship-gone-bad and your decision to end the relationship is of great use to police. Any email correspondence, Facebook messages or other evidence you have that shows what led up to the harassment is very important.
You can opt to have as many folders as needed to provide police with all evidence in regard to your complaint. Be as thorough as possible. If the individual who is harassing you is also harassing others, it is imperative to gather evidence that links it all together.
Step 4: Make an Index
The index above is an example of what is used in court to provide evidence. As you can see, it is laid out very clearly and easy to read. Label each of your folders to match the contents within and create an index similar to the one above that allows the detectives to go directly to the folder they need without digging through mounds of paper.
TIP: If you need to make "notes," write them onto a quarter-page size piece of paper and then staple the paper to the evidence that requires the note. An example of an important "note" would be: "On this page you will see where Mr. Doe began the harassment. In Folder #3 you will see that this is the same date that I ended my relationship with Mr. Doe."
I like to tab my folders so they are mega-simple to go through.
Step 5: Make a Matching Copy for Yourself
It is mandatory (in my opinion) that you make an identical copy of what you are providing to police for yourself. You may not be able to get the files you turn over to law enforcement back for a very long time (if at all), depending on how far your case goes.
In the event that police need to speak to you about evidence, it is a breeze to pull out your matching copy and refer to "Folder #6, page #4, paragraph #2" and so on.
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Step 6: Contact Information
Make sure you include your contact information on the very front of your binder or folder that contains your evidence. Do not limit your contact information to just your name and phone number. Include your address, email and an alternate contact phone number.
If you have information about your harasser (name, nick-names, aliases, email, address, etc), make this its own folder. Do not include this on the main page, as you do not want your evidence accidentally returned to your harasser instead of you.
Step 7: Going to Law Enforcement
If you know where your harasser resides, you will need to go to law enforcement in their area, not yours, even if they live in the next city over.
When you enter the police station, ask to speak to a detective. Most likely you will need to explain your case briefly to the person working the front desk area. When providing your explanation keep it short and simple.
Speak clearly and without emotion. Stating things like "John Doe is a basket-case and psychopath who needs to be locked up!" is not effective and will not get you help any faster (even if John Doe is indeed a basket-case psycho who really does need to be locked up).
Instead, use keywords that explain your issue, such as "John Doe began severely harassing me through text messages on (date). I have asked him to cease numerous times. The harassment has became worse and I am now fearful for my safety as well as my family's safety. I have brought all of the corresponding evidence of John's harassment with me."
If you are unable to speak to a detective, be sure to get a business card for both the officer and detective. If business cards are not available, record the officer's name and the detective's name as well as the detective's phone number.
Providing the harassment doesn't get "worse" (meaning John Doe doesn't make a threat like "I am going to kill you tonight"), wait a few days then follow up directly with the detective.
One Issue with Cyber Crime
Unfortunately, many cities and/or states are still learning how to address cyber bullying, internet harassment, SMS / text harassment, and so on. The reason for this is because before the internet become a tool to harass and threaten, police were given "jurisdictions" and each law enforcement agency operated within their jurisdiction.
When a "crime" occurs on the internet, many law enforcement officials do not know how specifically to deal with the issue since the crime occurred online. "Cyber space" is not in a specific jurisdiction.
For more information, read What Happens After Text Message Harassment is Reported to Police.