Spike in 'utterly remorseless' online harassment in lockdown

Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones from Suffolk police

ACC Rob Jones from Suffolk police - Credit: Suffolk police

Abusive former partners turned to social media and other forms of online harassment as national lockdowns kept people at home last year.

There was a 23% increase in stalking and harassment offences in 2020, compared to the previous year, while overall crime rates in Suffolk fell.

The annual crime figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show there were 6,566 incidents of stalking and harassment crimes between January and December, up from 5,332 in 2019.

Assistant chief constable at Suffolk police, Rob Jones, explained that online stalking and harassment has been just as "utterly remorseless and completely unpleasant and abusive" as the in-person crimes committed pre-pandemic. 

Mr Jones said: "These crimes are overwhelmingly people who are known to each other and previously been in a relationship. A previous party in a relationship doesn't want it to end and it becomes criminal.

"Stalking and harassment of strangers is more of a rarity."

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He explained that abusers turned to online platforms when restrictions were imposed on travel from march last year.

"This has moved into the digital space, it's not physical but just as upsetting. It's nearly always psychological and really harmful to the victims."

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He added police call-outs to incidents where former partners were trying to inflict violence on their victims have decreased, along with violence with an injury which reduced by 7% in 2020 compared to 2019. 

"Domestic violence is rising between inter families and neighbours living close together and there's been a decline in ex-partners coming and around causing issues," he said. 

There were 35 more knife crimes recorded in the county during 2020 compared to 2019, with only Staffordshire police reporting a larger increase (50) in knife offences.

"The number of knife crimes in Suffolk is a real concern," said Mr Jones. "But levels of violence have reduced."

Drug crime also increased with a 9% rise in cases.

Mr Jones said this is attributed to the fact officers were able to 'stop and search' more offenders as there were fewer people legally out on the streets, and they could more easily identify drug runners.

He said: "Drugs is a priority for Suffolk and causes an enormous amount of societal harm."

Mr Jones also highlighted the fact lockdown has lead to more people growing cannabis from home, increasing drug crimes in the county.

If you want to report crime to Suffolk police please go to suffolk.police.uk.

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