The danger signs of stalking should be identified as early as the first call made to control centre staff about a potential case, according to the head of safeguarding at a Yorkshire police force.
North Yorkshire Police’s Allan Harder spoke with The Yorkshire Post to coincide with the launch of its ‘No matter how small’ campaign today.
Encouraging people who may be victims of stalking to speak up about incidents that cause them concern, even if other people would consider them to be trivial or insignificant, the campaign which runs to the end of March also seeks to raise awareness of the different types of stalking and help people to recognise the signs.
Mr Harder said that stalking can be linked with other types of crime such as domestic abuse, and thinks an effective way to tackle it is for police workers, from contact centre staff to officers attending a report, to be savvy about potential signs of stalking and not just dealing with them as incidents which appear to be isolated.
He said that the approach needs “control team staff to ask the right questions” and the “right officers to go [to a report] at the right time to engage with the victims”.
Mr Harder added: “It’s about making sure that when people are going to those incidents as police officers, they’re taking into account all the information that’s valuable. It’s not ‘There’s some flowers left on the doorstep’...[it’s] about what’s been going on before that.”
There were 132 offences of stalking recorded by North Yorkshire in the year ending December 2018, with a further 1,347 reports of harassment made.
While harassment can include some of the same behaviours as stalking and causes a victim fear and distress, stalking is differentiated by its motivation. According to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, 94 per cent of women murdered by men nationally were also stalked in the year leading up to their deaths.
But the Paladin National Advocacy Service says a stalking victim will typically experience more than 100 incidents before actually reporting the matter to police.
Mr Harder said there needs to be “an understanding that stalking is not romantic.
“It’s not a display of affection towards an individual – it’s a fixated behaviour.”
Speaking before the campaign launched, he said: “It is an extremely serious crime and it can, and does, escalate to rape and murder.”
It follows on from the first national inspection in 2016/17 into how police and prosecutors respond to the issues of harassment and stalking.
North Yorkshire Police has since adopted a new procedure for how it responds to stalking and harassment reports and will be investing in training for officers and staff.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust said the campaign was a “positive step” in supporting people to come forward and receive an informed and expert response.
Paladin echoed the sentiment, adding that it heard victims all too often saying they did not think their concerns would be taken seriously.
The campaign forms part of the force’s wider work to tackle stalking, harassment, domestic abuse and other vulnerabilities.
Details about what constitutes stalking, the campaign and where to get help from police or charities can be found online.