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Revealed: Numbers of stalking and harassment cases reported every day in Dartford and Gravesend

By Ed McConnell

There were more than four cases of stalking or harassment reported every day in Dartford and Gravesham last year, figures have revealed.

The Office for National Statistics has released for the first time police recorded crime data on stalking and harassment at a local level.

It shows that during 2017 in Dartford and Gravesham, 1,481 cases of stalking, harassment or malicious communications were reported.

More than four cases were reported every day
More than four cases were reported every day

Of the three crimes included in the figures stalking is by far the most serious, and can include following someone, repeatedly going uninvited to their home and monitoring their use of phones and computers.

However charities say the scale of stalking is unknown as it sometimes gets classified as harassment by police forces.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a charity which campaigns to reduce the risk of violence and aggression, commented: "We welcome the ONS including stalking and harassment in the recorded offences data.

"However, recording stalking and harassment in the same data set does not give a clear indication of the prevalence of these individual, distinct crimes."

A spokeswoman said that the charity believes that stalking is still being vastly underreported, as there is a huge disparity between the recorded crime statistics and the ONS' more reliable national figures - the Crime Survey of England and Wales.

In Dartford and Gravesham stalking and harassment has increased by 66% over the past two years, from 499 cases in 2015.

The ONS advises these changes could be down to improved reporting by the police.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women's Aid, said: "From our work with survivors, we know that many women experience stalking as part of an ongoing pattern of controlling and abusive behaviour after leaving an abusive partner.

"All too often abuse that does not leave bruises is not taken seriously enough. These acts are often not seen as harmful as physical abuse when isolated yet together they create a life filled with threats, a life lived in fear."

Ms Ghose said she was pleased there has been police "progress" regarding stalking.

"The police have clearly taken steps to improve their identification and recording of this crime with a 33% increase in recorded incidents of stalking and harassment across England and Wales in the last year," she explained.

"But the police response to stalking continues to be patchy across forces and more needs to be done to give victims of stalking the confidence that they will be listened to, believed and supported when they report stalking to the police."

The Government is currently passing a Stalking Protection Bill, and has said it is giving £4.1 million to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to better educate police officers about stalking and harassment.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Stalking can have terrifying consequences, which is why this Government is working to protect victims and stop perpetrators at the earliest opportunity."

The bill will create new civil Stalking Protection Orders to help victims earlier.

"These orders will make it possible to intervene in cases before concerning behaviours become entrenched and escalate in severity, especially in cases of 'stranger stalking'."

Breaching the order could result in up to five years in prison.

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