POLICE are focusing on combating changes in criminal behaviour as part of National Stalking Awareness Week.

The force says the pandemic caused stalkers to move online more and expects these changes to be long-term even as lockdown lifts.

So, officers are supporting the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and other partners to protect stalking victims.

Det Insp Joe Saunders said: “Stalking during the pandemic has changed, with greater reliance on cyber related elements. It has not gone away. The impact on victims of stalking can make them feel isolated.

"It is important, during the National Stalking Awareness Week to educate on the offence of stalking, make sure victims know they can come forward to the police, and that the offenders of this terrible crime are dealt with. Stalking needs to be unmasked."

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for stalking and harassment offences, said:

"The police service remains absolutely committed to safeguarding victims of stalking and harassment. These offences have a significant life changing impact on victims and without appropriate early intervention the risk of harm can quickly escalate.

"The NPCC continues to work with key partner agencies to improve the response to stalking and harassment. Over the last three years, this has included the introduction of refreshed training and guidance to all frontline officers and staff, and the establishment of a network of specialists in each police force in England and Wales who are responsible for improving standards locally.

"In addition, the police service in conjunction with the CPS has introduced a revised protocol to guide investigative decision making, as well as working with the Home Office to roll out Stalking Protection Orders, that can be used as an additional tool to protect victims.

"Whilst significant progress has been made, we recognise there is still more to do and we are committed to working with the national stalking consortium and associated charities to better understand the victims experience, so we can work together to keep people safe and improve outcomes.

"During the pandemic, we have seen a change in how stalkers target their victims, with an increase in cyber stalking and we are working to understand how we can limit the opportunity for victims to be stalked in this way.

"I want to reassure anyone concerned that the police take all forms of stalking and harassment incredibly seriously.

"We are fully committed to doing all that we can to bring offenders to justice and safeguard victims and during this week, we will be further raising awareness of the changing landscape of stalking, how to report concerns and which organisations can provide guidance, advice and support.

"I would always urge anyone who believes they may be subject of stalking to come forward at the earliest opportunity and report their concerns to police so we can work with them to protect them.”

Victims of stalking can call police on 101, or 999 if they are in immediate danger. If you are being stalked, contact us on 101. If you are in immediate danger call 999.

There is support and advice from the Suzy Lampugh Trust on the National Stalking Helpline 0808 802 0300, and through the Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service on 020 3866 4107.