Eight stalking and harassment cases reported every day in Sunderland – figures reveal huge increase of crimes in city

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

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 24 April, 2019, 08:01
Stalking and harassment has become more common online. Picture by PA

Office for National Statistics data shows that in Sunderland, 3,203 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 24-fold in Sunderland.

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.

Northumbria Police only brought charges in 8% of the stalking and harassment cases they investigated.

Overall, the force recorded 14,600 cases over the 12-month period. Of those, there were 1,142 stalking offences.

Det Chief Insp Eric Myers, who is Northumbria Police’s lead for stalking and harassment, believes that more people are now aware of stalking and harassment and understand how important it is to report it to police.

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He said: “We have made significant improvements over the past few years in relation to how we deal with reports of stalking and harassment. Our priority is making sure officers will listen to the victim, make appropriate decisions and most importantly take action to make sure the victim is safe.

“All our officers have been specially trained to go beyond the surface and spot the signs of someone being stalked or harassed.

“Quite often victims themselves may not even be aware of the extent they are being stalked as frighteningly, this can be happening without their knowledge.”

The most common crime reported was malicious communications.

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.

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.