Stalking offences in Bedfordshire surged by more than double during coronavirus lockdown
Stalking offences in Bedfordshire surged by more than double in the six months after the coronavirus lockdown began last year, according to new figures.
Home Office data shows the number of stalking offences recorded by Beds Police in the six months between April and September 2020 was more than double the amount over the whole previous year.
The force recorded 337 stalking offences between April and September last year, while in the prior 12 months leading to March 2020 there were just 142.
In the first six months since the coronavirus pandemic hit, stalking was reported around twice a day on average.
A spokesman for charity The Suzy Lamplugh Trust said: "Since March 2020, we have seen a rise in calls to the helpline, clients are more distressed and are requiring much greater support.
"We have also seen an increase in cyber stalking cases."
The charity says part of the increase may be due to changes in the law, encouraging more victims to come forward.
In January 2020, the Home Office introduced Stalking Protection Orders - which ban stalkers from approaching their victims and may also force them to seek professional help.
Since April 2020, all cases of harassment reported between ex-partners must also be recorded as stalking, unless the police are satisfied stalking is not a factor.
However, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust states that while these changes may have contributed to a rise in reports, there is still "significant under-reporting" of the crime.
Detective Inspector Katherine Rivers, Beds Police's lead on stalking and harassment, said: “We welcome the increase in reports of stalking and harassment as this means victims are feeling more confident in coming forward. We have a number of powers to support them throughout the process.
“Our force is constantly improving its response to stalking and harassment, and has invested in training to be able to best support victims of this type of crime.
"We are also working with our partners to increase the awareness and understanding of this behaviour across our communities.
“Last month we secured our first ever Stalking Protection Order. These are civil orders which became law in January 2020, and offer interim protection for anyone who believes they are being targeted by stalking behaviour. They allow us to protect the victim, and deter an offender with or without resultant criminal proceedings.
“Stalking and harassment can have an extremely negative impact on a victim and result in severe, long lasting trauma, and can be linked to some of the highest harm crimes, including domestic abuse, sexual offences, and even murder.”
To report stalking, call police on 101. In the case of an emergency, always dial 999.
Or you can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300, or speak with Paladin, the National Stalking Advocacy on 0203 866 4107.
If you’ve been affected by crime, Signpost can offer free, confidential help, whether you’ve reported it or not. Contact 0800 0282 887.