This week is National stalking awareness week, and North Yorkshire Police are leading a campaign to raise awareness.
Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted behaviour that causes you to feel distressed or scared – it can be perpetrated by men or women.
Inspector Clare Crossan , North Yorkshire Police Stalking Support Team said:
While lockdown may have curtailed a stalker’s physical movements, sadly it doesn’t seem to have stopped their fixated obsession to make their victims lives a living hell. All it’s done is made them move to more invasive, digital ways of evoking fear.
Over lockdown the number of reports we have received from stalking victims, telling us that their privacy has been invaded and their feeling of safety threatened by offenders accessing the tech in their home, has more than doubled.
- In the year April 19-March 20 there were 202 reports of stalking with a cyber connection were reported to North Yorkshire Police.
- For the equivalent period April 20-Mar 21 there were 427 reports were received – an increase of 225.
- Suzy Lamplugh Trust say 2020-2021 – 79 contacted us from North Yorkshire, 9 referred to the police
Although the traditional image of stalking is being followed down a street, the reality now is that most perpetrated online and by someone known to the victim. This year there is a particular focus on how technology is often used by stalkers
Inspector Clare Crossan said:
Victims have spoken about their smart doorbells being accessed and their movements in and out of the home being monitored, with stalkers knowing whether they have left their property on foot or in a vehicle or being aware of any private details, such as deliveries or visitors to their property.
Victims have described how offenders have accessed their smart speaker devices, or ‘dropped-in’ to their voice controlled assistant devices, some of which allow a person remote control over lighting and heating in their home. Lights have been turned on and off and heating turned up or down, all of which lead a victim to feeling a real sense of helplessness and fear inside their own home, that there is no safe space even inside your own four walls. And with lockdown conditions thrown in, it exacerbates the feeling that there is no escape.
In many cases the stalking can be part of a bigger picture of coercive controlling behaviour by an ex-partner. Inspector Crossan is urging people to look at their digital footprint and ensure they essentially “lock their online or digital front door”. Everyone needs to be aware of who has access to things like emails, online banking and smart devices or security cameras. That access may have been OK while in a relationship, but is it important to revert that if there is a relationship breakdown.
Many cases of stalking are not reported for some months, in same situations that is because a behaviour pattern has been normalised and accepted. North Yorkshire Police is urging people to make contact sooner, rather than later, to allow them to work with them and agreed course of action to protect them and to halt the behaviour.
Inspector Crossan said:
It’s vital that if an individual has suspicions that they are being stalked, they tell the police as soon as possible on 101 or on 999 in an emergency. It’s understood that on average a victim may live with this kind of intimidation for months, experiencing up to one hundred stalking incidents before reporting it to the police. So please don’t live with this behaviour.
Stalking is a crime and there are steps we can take to make it stop. We have specially trained officers in our Stalking Support Team who are there to support and safeguard victims and to ensure we secure the very best outcomes for them.
Please also give some thought to your digital footprint and the devices around you, which may allow someone access to your home or private life. Make sure all of your accounts are secure and your passwords are updated regularly, to keep stalkers out.
People need to remember that they have a right to feel safe in their own homes, and a right to feel safe online.