• A Preventive App Against Stalking

In order to help the police and victims to identify stalking right from the start, Police commissioner Turgay Akkaya has developed an anti-stalking app as part of his Bachelor’s project at the HWR Berlin. At the beginning of January he received the Eberhard Fischer Award for the practical relevance of his research. The app should soon be available to potential victims and for police use.

The idea of developing an anti-stalking app came to Turgay Akkaya while working. “During my studies for the senior police service at the Berlin School of Economics and Law (HWR Berlin), I regularly had practical assignments in various police sections in Berlin,” says the 34-year-old Police commissioner. “I have often been present when the police were called out because of domestic violence. In some cases, when a separation of the partners was clearly foreseeable or had already taken place and the arguments turned into physical attacks, the behaviour and statements of the conflicting parties indicated the likelihood that stalking would sooner or later become an issue in the relationship.”

According to recent statistics from the Federal Criminal Police Office (available in German only), a total of 29,301 women and 3,721 men were victims of stalking, threats and coercion in the context of intimate partner violence in 2020. The number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher. However, the criminal offence of stalking is a very difficult offence to describe factually or even to prove. “This is a problem for the (potential) victims of this psychologically very stressful situation. That is why they are afraid to press charges. At the same time, stalking is often unfamiliar territory for police officers. I wanted to provide practical help here,” says Turgay Akkaya.

The app works like the Wahl-O-Mat election app

As part of his Bachelor’s thesis, he created a checklist that can be used to detect stalking based on certain criteria. The checklist works as a question and answer tool - similar to the Wahl-O-Mat election app. The answers clicked are qualitatively compared with a catalogue of characteristics. Compliance with the criteria defined is used to determine whether and to what extent the offence of stalking has been committed.

Colleagues from the Berlin police and Christian Matzdorf, Professor of criminology at the Department of Police and Security Management at the HWR Berlin and supervisor of his Bachelor’s thesis, supported Turgay Akkaya in creating the checklist. “First of all, I spoke to employees of the specialist departments of the Berlin police and carried out a risk analysis together with them, which is based on police practice. I then created the checklist on that basis,” explains Turgay Akkaya. Using a quantitative online survey, he then checked the checklist for practicality and examined how it can be used. Students at the HWR Berlin were surveyed over a period of one month. Of the 542 persons interviewed, about 42 percent (228) stated that they had already been affected by stalking themselves or knew persons from their personal environment who had already been or were victims of stalking. What helped Turgay Akkaya with the further development of the checklist for the app was that he worked in the software sector before his studies at the HWR Berlin.

Turgay Akkaya hopes his app can help protect potential victims of stalking in the future. “In police practice, I have experienced that talking to dangerous people can prevent acts of violence. If police officers use a stalking app and can recognise that it is actually a case of stalking, they can address it at an early stage and prevent a possible crime in the first place.” The app gives victims of stalking a tool to prove that they are being stalked and are suffering psychological damage as a result. Stalking has been a criminal offence in Germany since 2007 and in extreme cases is punishable by up to ten years in prison. However, for those who have been psychologically and often also physically harmed, it is usually difficult to determine at what point it is a criminal offence. And even harder to press charges.


Awarded for practical relevance

For his contribution to crime prevention, at the beginning of January, Turgay Akkaya received the Eberhard Fischer Award for outstanding scientific, journalistic and cultural achievements of overriding social importance in Berlin. At the award ceremony, the high application relevance of the Bachelor’s thesis, and therefore also the app, was particularly emphasised.

The anti-stalking app developed by Turgay Akkaya is not yet officially in use. It can currently only be used by entering a code. “I am currently developing additional functions and adding important features to the app to make it even more user-friendly and versatile. There should also be an emergency call function.” Further adjustments are necessary to enable police stations or aid organisations to use the app and to integrate it into professional prevention programs. “Discussions are currently underway with authorities and police administrations, which I would like to bring to a conclusion,” says Turgay Akkaya.

If you want to use the app, you have to be patient for the time being. The NO STALK app (available in German only) from Weisser Ring is already available to those affected free of charge. This can be used to document stalking incidents conclusively with photos, videos and voice recordings. (vdo)



More Stories