Online stalking reports increase in Sussex during lockdown

Reports of online stalking have been rising over the last few weeks across Sussex.

This week (from April 20) is National Stalking Awareness Week, and Sussex Police are highlighting cyber and online stalking, especially during the coronavirus outbreak.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, said:

“The theme for this week is ‘See Stalking Clearly’ and it’s very pertinent, especially during this crisis, that we all do start to see and take seriously these types of crimes.

“The rise in cyberstalking due to the ‘lockdown’ concerns me deeply.

“We know all too well that this behaviour causes extreme distress and can
unfortunately escalate quickly.”

Local stalking support agency Veritas Justice believes the increase is in relation to the current lockdown restrictions and isolation, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The force is urging victims of stalking to not suffer in silence, and recognise the signs.

F – fixated
O – obsessive
U – unwanted
R – repeated

A new online chat facility has been funded by the Sussex Police Crime and Commissioner, and delivered by Veritas Justice for victims of stalking to reach out.

Sussex is the second highest recorder of stalking offences after the Metropolitan Police, with reports up by more than 100% in just three years.

The force recorded 1,005 stalking offences in the 12 months to March 2018, 1,547 in the 12 months to 31 March 2019, and 2,020 in the 12 months to 31 March 2020

 

DCI Mick Richards said:

“During the current Covid-19 pandemic your safety online is particularly important and there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself.

“In particular, don’t be tempted to ‘block’ your caller, delete messages or
throw away gifts as they could be used as evidence later on.

“This might include audio recordings, films or pictures, copies of emails, text messages, screenshots and similar material.

“You can also keep a log of all the incidents that have occurred.

“Always report it. “

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner said the severity of risk to a victim is defined by the amount of time invested by the perpetrator in their obsession.

Katy Bourne added:

“So, with many victims receiving over 100 text messages/emails/phone calls a day, we know that these strong fixations could have a more sinister outcome.

“If you are experiencing behaviour that is fixated, obsessive, unwanted or repeated, then you are being stalked.

“It is a crime and you will be taken seriously when you ask for help.

“Please still report to the police and reach out to the team at Veritas Justice, they will both continue to be there for you whenever you need them.”

Claudia Ortiz, founder of Veritas Justice, said:

“For this National Stalking Awareness Week we are focusing on ‘Seeing Stalking Clearly’.

“More than ever it is important that stalking victims remain a visible priority during this crisis, by enabling them to access the support and advice they need during these challenging times.

“We are already seeing an even more significant shift to cyber and online stalking behaviours, which are having a very negative impact on individuals and families.

“We are acutely aware that as domestic abuse increases so will stalking, anxiety and isolation.

“So we hope that the online chat facility will offer additional and flexible support to those affected by this devastating crime.

“Stalkers will continue stalking during lockdown and we will continue working with clients and partners to adapt to the changing landscape.”

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