COMMUNITY safety groups have joined with the police to urge victims of stalking to seek help ahead of an awareness week focusing on the crime.
National Stalking Awareness Week starts on Monday to reach out to those suffering in silence.
It is thought that only half of stalking incidents are reported to police.
Lorna Hilton, Victim Support project officer in the central area of Hartlepool and staff from the domestic violence charity Harbour are spearheading a town campaign to let people know help is available for victims.
Mrs Hilton said: “Stalking can have a huge impact on victims’ lives, but many don’t come forward and just hope the problem will go away.
“People can talk to us in complete confidence and we will either offer them advice and support directly or point them in the direction of other organisations that can help.”
Lesley Gibson, director of Harbour, added: “We want to give people the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that there is help and support readily available.”
Police say they take all reports of stalking seriously and are backing the awareness week.
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “We would urge anyone dealing with this issue to contact officers.
“Stalking can be a frightening and difficult experience, but there are a number of services in Hartlepool that can help and offer support.”
Mrs Hilton works out of the Community Safety Office, in York Road, and can be contacted on (01429) 855560, Harbour can be contacted on 0845 6027308 and Cleveland Police on (01642) 326326.
Help is also available via the National Stalking Helpline on 0300 6360300 and people who believe they are being stalked can quantify their personal risk by completing an 11-question assessment online by loggin onto www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk and selecting the link at the bottom of this story.