ESSEX Police are supporting partners and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to highlight this year’s National Stalking Awareness Week, which runs from the 24-28 April.
A spokesperson said: “The theme for the week is ‘Standing Against Stalking: Supporting Young People,‘ and we will be sharing information on types of stalking, highlighting the work we do to support victims and bring perpetrators to justice, and signposting to where you can find additional support.
Stalking is an offence that dominates the life of a victim due to an obsessive and unwanted fixation at the hands of the suspect.
It can take many forms, such as taking normal everyday actions to the extreme. It can be receiving unwanted gifts, being bombarded with text messages or phone calls, or seeing the same person unexpectedly while going about your day-to-day.
These behaviours are repeated, persistent and intrusive, and while we may typically recognise stalking as a crime carried out in-person, it’s important to know that it can also happen online. This is referred to as cyberstalking and can occur through emails, social media and online messaging platforms.
Whether it’s in-person or virtually, repetitive behaviour which causes someone to feel alarm, distress or to fear violence, could be stalking.
No one case of stalking is the same. That’s why this year, in January 2023, we began a new initiative called the Essex Stalking Intervention Panel (ESIP).
Each panel is held regularly for officers and staff across Essex Police, and is chaired by our Stalking and Harassment Lead, specialists from our partner agencies, and other experienced officers.
They give advice on how to progress each investigation, how to protect victims in the immediate and long-term, and how to reduce the risk of reoffending by identifying patterns of fixated and obsessive behaviour as early as possible.
It’s hoped that the panels will help progress stalking investigations faster and allow us to better support the individual needs of our communities.
Alongside our new advisory panels, our specialist officers and teams continue to work hard to safeguard victims of stalking and bring those responsible to justice.
We have specialist teams, such as our Domestic Abuse Investigation Teams (DAIT), who are responsible for offences where the suspect may be a family member or a current or former partner.
Across each Local Policing Area (LPA), we also have ambassadors with enhanced stalking and harassment knowledge.
We work closely with trained Independent Stalking Advocates (ISACs) who work within partner agencies and provide further support and advice to victims of stalking.
“Our Force Control Room (FCR) call takers, who also manage online reports, are trained to spot the signs of stalking and connect reports linked to the same person or address.
“We also hold regular Victim Feedback Panel’s where officers and staff can hear directly from victims and support services on their experiences and how officer’s actions and words may affect someone experiencing trauma.
The working group continue to explore new innovative ways to protect victims and tackle offenders. We look and share lessons learnt both from reviewing investigations and learning from victim experiences.
Detective Superintendent Stephen Jennings, the Stalking and Harassment Lead for Essex Police, said:
“In my career, I have seen first-hand the devastating effect that emotionally driven fixations can have on an individual and their families.
“Stalking behaviour can start as something seemingly subtle, like an unwanted gift through the post, a few comments on someone’s profile picture or some missed calls late at night, but it can escalate quickly.
“That’s why it’s so important that we continue to talk about this and encourage our friends and families to look out for the signs, particularly for younger generations who may not know that stalking online is still a crime.
“Stalking can happen to anyone, and whether you’ve had a past relationship with that person or they’re a complete stranger, nobody should make you fear leaving the house or looking at your phone.
“Each case of stalking is different and to make sure we keep up-to-date with the experiences of our communities, we take our learning directly from those who have been affected by stalking and are always working alongside support services and stalking advocates to improve our investigations and training.
“It’s never easy to make a report, but it’s important that anyone experiencing stalking behaviour seeks help. You might feel like there is not much we can do, but if you’re unsure, please still talk to us. We’re here to help and will take your report seriously.
“If you’re not yet ready to speak to us, then please get advice from one of the many partner agencies or charities we work with. You can find useful links on our website.”
If you’re experiencing stalking or harassment, there are a number of local charities and organisations who can help support you and provide further information.
You can find more details on our website: https://www.essex.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/sh/stalking-harassment/
If you’re worried about yourself, or someone else, and are not in immediate danger, please report it via our website.
Always call 999 in an emergency.