Northumbria Police’s efforts to tackle stalking have been praised as part of National Stalking Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday.
To mark the occasion, national personal-safety charity, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, has released a report detailing the national picture of how stalking cases are dealt with by the police and the services available to victims.
In that report, Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has been praised as an excellent example of good practice having specifically commissioned services to address the problem of stalking. The Commissioner is one of only nine PCCs to have done so in England and Wales.
Last year, Northumberland Domestic Abuse Service (NDAS) received funding to have a specialist stalking worker and this year, 11 organisations in the Force area which offer help and support to victims of stalking, will also receive funding.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said: “Raising awareness of stalking is incredibly important – as is the help we offer to victims. Stalking and harassment can affect anyone and in many ways. It can be people we know or people we don’t and it can take place on our way to work or even in the comfort of our own home with calls or messages on social media.
“Whatever form stalking and harassment takes, I want everyone to understand that here is help out there for those who are suffering – no matter who you are and irrespective of your sex, age or background – absolutely nobody should be suffering in silence.
“This year, stalking was a key theme in our grants programme and although no stand-alone services applied, we made it a requirement that all domestic violence-related support services must support victims of stalking and harassment if they come forward. The help is there and I urge anyone with any concerns to seek it; they will be listened to and helped to safety.”
The report by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, entitled Out of Sight, Out of Mind, also highlights that nationally only 26.6 per cent of stalking has been reported to the police - raising concerns that it is an under-reported and under-recorded crime.
Earlier this year, Northumbria Police conducted its own review into how effectively the force deals with the handling of stalking and harassment. As a result of this, a series of improvements are being made to the recording and handling of cases. There is also new programme of training being introduced for frontline officers.
Detective Chief Inspector Deborah Alderson said: “Northumbria Police takes stalking and harassment very seriously. We want victims to have the confidence that Northumbria Police can help you if you come forward.
“We understand that you may be too scared to come to the police through fear that you won’t be believed or taken seriously. Please be assured that we are here to help you escape from the behaviour you’re being subjected to and do understand and will be taken seriously.
“We have recently completely reviewed the way we deal with stalking and harassment which will improve the way we identify and record reports and as such I am confident this will lead to a substantial increase in the number of cases of stalking and harassment being recorded.
“All staff have recently received training about coercive and controlling behaviour which is a key part of stalking and harassment and a new training programme is also planned specifically about stalking and harassment so officers will be better equipped to understand the complex issues involved and offer the best support to victims.”
People can also receive specific stalking support services from the following organisations which have received PCC funding: Barnardo’s, Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services (NDAS), Women’s Health in South Tyneside (WHIST), Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland, Cygnus Support, Community Counselling Cooperative, The Angelou Centre, The Riverside Community Health Centre, Apna Ghar, West End School’s Trust and Acorns.