One stalking or harassment case reported in North Herts every day, figures reveal
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A detective chief inspector has spoken about the intricacies of stalking and harassment cases after figures revealed that on average there was at least one reported every day in North Herts last year.
Office for National Statistics data shows that 489 cases of stalking, harassment or malicious communications were reported in North Herts between October 2017 and September 2018.
Of the three crimes included in the figuress stalking is considered the most serious, and can include following someone, repeatedly going uninvited to their home and monitoring their use of phones and computers.
Over the last five years, the number of recorded stalking and harassment cases has increased seven-fold in North Herts.
The Home Office says police recording has improved and victims are feeling more empowered to come forward.
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However, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, the police watchdog, recently published a report stating that stalking and harassment are not being investigated by police consistently or effectively.
It says there is no single definition of the crime, which means “police forces are not consistently identifying stalking and are not protecting victims as a result”.
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HMICFRS adds that forces are not using powers under stalking laws to search perpetrators’ homes so investigations are “not as thorough as they could be”.
The watchdog has given the National Police Chiefs’ Council six months to adopt a series of recommendations.
Lucy Hadley, campaigns and public affairs manager at Women’s Aid, commented: “It is concerning that police forces are continuing to fall short when it comes to effectively handle stalking and harassment cases and give the appropriate level of support that survivors desperately need.
“It can be a matter of life or death that the police give the right response in stalking cases.”
She urged police leaders to invest in domestic abuse and stalking training.
Hertfordshire Constabulary brought charges in six per cent of the stalking and harassment cases they investigated.
Overall, the force recorded 4,800 cases over the 12-month period. Of those, there were 275 stalking offences. The most common crime reported was malicious communications.
Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Cheek, head of Herts police’s Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit, said: “Stalking is a serious crime that can have a significant psychological impact on the victim and, in some cases, be a warning sign that the offender may go on to harm the victim. More awareness of this by the public may explain the increase in reporting, as well as greater confidence in policing, new recording standards and better training among police officers in dealing with these reports.
“It is a complex crime involving a repeated pattern of behaviours over a sustained period and may involve a degree of subterfuge. More than two thirds of reports are domestic abuse related, meaning both parties are known to each other and in some cases the victim does not recognise the perpetrator’s actions as stalking. As a result some victims can be reluctant to support an investigation, which means prosecutions can be challenging, but we continue to work with victims to increase the number of charges brought against offenders.
“In many cases we have used civil orders to stop perpetrators’ behaviour and the new Stalking Prevention Orders introduced last month will strengthen our ability to do this. In other cases where there has been insufficient evidence for a stalking charge, we have been able to prosecute offenders for other offences revealed by our investigation. Our priority will always be the safety of the victim and their family.
“In all cases we have specialist officers who offer guidance and support to victims whatever their wishes are. Hertfordshire’s new Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworker service increases that help and support to victims.”
Women’s Aid has been working with the police on the Make Yourself Heard campaign, on how to safely dial 999 when it is too dangerous to speak.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, from the NPCC, said: “The police service receives 12 million 999 calls each year and a small, but important number need to use the ‘silent solution’.”
Police say a silent emergency call on its own will not bring assistance, however a victim can alert the call handler by coughing, tapping keys or pressing 55.