The Metropolitan Police announced the force is supporting the National Stalking Awareness Week, which started on 24 April.
The theme of this year is “Standing Against Stalking: Supporting Young People”.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the UK’s pioneering personal safety charity and leading stalking authority, reported that there is an increasing number of 16- to 24-year-olds contacting their Helpline to seek support in how to deal with such unwanted behaviours.
Detective Chief Inspector Dan Thompson, the Met’s Lead for tackling stalking, said: “Only 24 victims under the age of 18, reported stalking offences to the Met in the past year.
“This constituted just over 0.3 per cent of all reported stalking offences.
“This supports the view that stalking is misunderstood or underreported in this age group.
“In this digital age we now see online stalking and I imagine a lot of young people see stalking as ‘real world’ behaviour.
“As this can be an incredibly difficult and anxious time for young people, it is vitally important for our officers to be aware of what stalking can look like in this age group, as it may differ from typical stalking behaviours.”
The Met defined stalking as “when someone repeatedly behaves in a way which makes an individual feel scared, distressed or threatened.”
The force stated: “We will investigate stalking in cases where victim survivors report behaviour that is fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated (think FOUR).”
Four-week operation targeting 240 suspects
In the run up to National Stalking Awareness Week, officers from across London carried out a four-week operation to target 240 named suspects who were wanted for stalking offences.
They were either arrested, circulated as wanted or eliminated from our enquiries. They also arrested offenders for breaching Restraining Orders and Stalking Protection Orders.
Alongside the proactive operational commitment to targeting offenders, throughout the week, specialist officers from the Met’s Stalking Threat Assessment Centre (STAC) will be delivering training sessions to all Safer Schools Officers, Youth Engagement Officers and Cadet Leaders.
A spokesperson from the Met said this is to upskill officers who regularly interact with young people, helping to improve their response to identifying stalking in young people. Through this training, officers are able to precisely identify if the potential suspect’s behaviour is obsessive and fixated.
STAC officers, along with a Clinical Psychologist will also be delivering stalking awareness training to partners within the Crown Prosecution Service.
Additionally, in south west London officers will be holding stalking awareness sessions at local universities to help students understand and identify stalking.
“Stalking can escalate to serious sexual and physical violence, even murder”
Claire Waxman, London’s Victims’ Commissioner said: “As a victim of stalking for two decades, I know first-hand the devastating impact it can have on the lives of victims, friends and family. Tragically, as seen in many cases, stalking is only the beginning and can escalate to serious sexual and physical violence and even murder if not identified and dealt with swiftly.
“This National Stalking Awareness Week, I am fully supporting the call to stand together with young people impacted by stalking so that their experiences are understood and they can access specialist support, particularly within schools and higher education institutions. I am also pleased to see a focus on prevention as we know education plays a key role in tackling some of these unwanted behaviours.
“It’s vital that our criminal justice system and our police forces take stalking with the utmost seriousness it requires and provide all victims with the protection, support and services they need, and that offenders are brought to justice swiftly.
“That’s why as London’s Victims’ Commissioner, I am working to make sure that stalking remains a key priority for our police and justice system, both in the criminal and family courts, and I’m continuing to push for an overhaul of the Criminal Justice System so that we can support victims in their journey to get the justice and support they deserve.”
“Offenders will face the full force of law”
Commander Kev Southworth, Head of Public Protection, said: “The Met’s commitment to tackling stalking in all its forms is absolute. This last year has seen a significant intensification in all our activities, both Met-wide and with our partners, to prevent stalking, to best protect victim survivors from this awful crime, and to bring offenders to justice wherever possible. To this end, we are actively trialling the use of new, innovative technologies to support our investigators and utilising the full legislative toolkit available to us.
“No-one in our communities should be subjected to the appalling experience of being stalked. Given the very high proportion of female victim survivors affected in our city in particular, this area of our policing will also remain a central component of our wider approach to tackling violence against women and girls. In short, offenders need to know that whilst help is available to divert them away from fixated and obsessive behaviours, ultimately if they do not desist, they will face the full force of the law.”
To help young people understand what stalking is, visit: Paladin – Young People Services
To get stalking advice and help, visit The Suzy Lamplugh Trust or call 0808 802 0300. In an emergency always dial 999.
(Source: Metropolitan Police)