Stalking offences reported to police more than twice a day in North Yorkshire
Stalking offences are reported more than twice a day in North Yorkshire, figures suggest.
Home Office data shows that North Yorkshire Police recorded 508 stalking offences in the six months between April and September – 308 more than those reported across the same time period in 2019.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust said calls to its National Stalking Helpline have risen since the start of the pandemic, with cyber stalking cases also surging.
As lockdown restrictions eased, a higher number of victims came forward to report stalking, compared to the first lockdown months. Between July and September, 288 such crimes were reported in North Yorkshire – 68 more than the previous three months.
Across England and Wales, 44,990 stalking incidents were reported to police between April and September – 39% more than in the whole of 2019-20.
Changes in law and procedures may have had an impact on the figures.
In January 2020, the Home Office introduced Stalking Protection Orders, which ban perpetrators from approaching their victims and may also force them to seek professional help.
Changes to the way stalking is recorded were also introduced in April 2019, with the crime being recorded in addition to the most serious offence involving the same victim or offender.
Since April 2020, all cases of harassment reported between ex-partners must also be recorded as stalking, unless the police are satisfied stalking is not a factor.
However, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust said that while these changes may have contributed to a rise in reports, there was still significant underreporting of the crime.
"Demand has fluctuated to the helpline over the course of the pandemic, in some periods it has tripled on pre-covid levels.
"The introduction of Stalking Protection Orders has been very much welcomed, though we do still hope to see more police forces issuing them.
"According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales there are around 1.5 million victims of stalking each year and as such we believe there is still significant underreporting of this crime."
Victoria Atkins, Safeguarding Minister, said: “The Government introduced Stalking Protection Orders last year to crack down on this deeply distressing crime, and I know that police forces are making good use of them.
"These orders are designed to stop perpetrators at the earliest opportunity and prevent them contacting victims - for those who refuse to be rehabilitated, we have doubled maximum sentences for stalking and harassment to 10 years.
"The Home Office also part-funds the National Stalking Helpline and has allocated £211,000 to stalking-focused charities to help them to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.
"The increased reporting in this instance demonstrates greater public awareness around stalking offences and the commitment of the police to tackle this abhorrent crime."