Published: 00:00, 07 March 2018
| Updated: 14:27, 07 March 2018
Kent Police say there has been a sharp increase in the number of stalking and harassment offences in just a year.
Offences of harassment rose from 1,135 in 2016 to 3,941 in 2017 while there was a staggering increase in stalking offences. There were 340 cases reported in 2017 - 213 more when compared to 2016 - an increase of 167%.
The figures were disclosed at a meeting today by the force’s chief constable Alan Pughsley.
He said that there was greater awareness of stalking as a separate offence and greater understanding among the force about it.
Crime commissioner Matthew Scott said he was confident the force was tackling the issue but lessons should be learned from stalking cases.
“There is some good work going on to identify victims and safeguarding them. But given that stalking and harassment as separate offences are relatively new, there is still some training and awareness that needs to go on among staff and officers to make sure they are doing the best by victims.”
But he said he genuinely believed the figures reflected an increased awareness of stalking as a separate offence
The force was working alongside charities like the Susie Lamplugh trust to promote awareness of the offence.
An internal investigation is taking place into how the force responded to concerns raised by Molly McLaren about her ex-partner Joshua Stimpson, who was recently found guilty of her murder.
Stalking became a specific offence in November 2012 to make it easier for victims to get justice.
Up until November 2012, anyone convicted of stalking were generally prosecuted under harassment laws - but only when their actions were seen to cause a fear of violence.
Kent’s police chief has said an increase in hate crime may be partly related to Brexit.
Alan Pughsley said that a rise in offences was partly attributable to the decision to leave the EU but also because victims were now more willing to come forward to report allegations.
Speaking at a meeting today to answer questions about police performance with crime commissioner Matthew Scott, he said:
“More people have the confidence to come forward to report to us and we have seen some differation of crime types. Some of these are related to Brexit.”
However he declined to elaborate on what the type of crimes were being triggered by the decision to leave the EU although there have been some reports that offences have involved intimidation of migrants.