The Office for National Statistics has released local data on stalking, harassment, and malicious communication statistics While we welcome the Office for National Statistics including stalking in the recorded offences datait is disappointing to see three different crimes merged into one figure.  It is vitally important to recognise these behaviours as distinct crimes.  

While harassment can include some of the same behaviours as stalking and causes a victim fear and distress, stalking is differentiated by the motivation of the stalker. If a stalker’s behaviour shows a fixation or obsession and this behaviour is causing you alarm and distress then this meets the definition of stalking. Stalking is an insidious crime and commonly causes prolonged suffering for victims with around a third of all cases involving physical violence. Recent research has found that 55% of stalking perpetrators go on to reoffend, and 36% have a previous conviction for harassment. However, the complex psychological issues associated with the crime often fail to be addressed within the criminal Justice system.  

By merging stalking with other crimes overlooks the prevalence of this distinct crime and the significant effect it can have on a victim.  

The data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that there has been growth in reporting of harassment, stalking and malicious communication. However, it is unclear from this data what reporting trends are for individual crimes.  In April, to mark National Stalking Awareness Week, Suzy Lamplugh Trust released a report Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind - Two Years On.

This report exposed significant gaps in the handling of stalking crimes amongst police forces and highlighted the continued lack of understanding of stalking behaviours. This has contributed to police forces across England and Wales failing to understand the prevalence of stalking as a crime in their local area.

Data from our research shows that in 2017, police forces recorded 8,364 cases of stalking. However, this still represents less than 1% of the cases that take place each year. We are calling for all agencies who may come in to contact with stalking victims to make #ReportingStalking a strategic priority. This includes working with ONS to record stalking accurately and distinctly from other crimes. 

We are keen to work with police forces to help them improve the way they protect victims of stalking, most recently Suzy Lamplugh Trust have a joint initiative with Cambridgeshire Police where we will be working with officers to provide an enhanced offer of support to local victims of stalking.

The move will see our National Stalking Helpline service work with Cambridgeshire Police to provide specialist training for a new post holder in Cambridgeshire’s Victim and Witness Hub who will provide dedicated support to victims of stalking and harassment.

It is encouraging that Cambridgeshire Constabulary see the invaluable insight that our service can deliver to improve police response to stalking and harassment however we need more forces to follow their lead and work with us.

We are calling for all agencies who may come in to contact with stalking victims to make #ReportingStalking a strategic priority.

To find out more about the stalking training we offer professionals click here.