Stalking and harassment cases in Hartlepool have rocketed 21-fold in last five years

There were more than two stalking and harassment cases reported every day in Hartlepool last year, figures reveal.

Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 9:11 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 9:21 am
Stalking and harassment has become more common online. Picture by PA

Office for National Statistics data shows that in Hartlepool, 787 cases of stalking, harassment or malicious communications were reported between October 2017 and September 2018.

Of the three crimes included in the figures, stalking is 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 21-fold in Hartlepool.

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A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: “The force is aware in the increase of stalking, harassment or malicious communications figures and believe the increase is due to a change in recording practices and better compliance with the National Crime Recording Standard.

“A very small percentage of the figures is stalking, with the vast majority of the figures being accountable to harassment and malicious communications.

“Officers take all reports of this nature extremely seriously and we would encourage people to tell us if someone’s behaviour is upsetting or frightening to them. Do not be nervous to talk about it, it is a serious offence and we will work to protect you.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe and anyone who is concerned about stalking, harassment or malicious communications can contact Cleveland Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. The National Stalking Helpline can be contacted on 0808 802 0300.”

The Home Office says police recording has improved and victims are feeling more empowered to come forward.

However, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), 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”.

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 domestic abuse charity 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.

Cleveland Police only brought charges in 5% of the stalking and harassment cases they investigated.

Overall, the force recorded 4,800 cases over the 12-month period. Of those, there were 123 stalking offences.

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’.

“Messages guide you throughout the process and used properly, it is simple, straightforward and helps us to help you.”

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.