Stalking and harassment up by more than three quarters in Essex
Alessandro de Leo
Police in Essex have seen a massive 78% rise in stalking and harassment – with an average of 42 individual offences recorded each day.
Overall crime increased by 12.6% in the county, against an 8% rise across England and Wales, according to the latest annual figures released by the Office for National Statistics for the year ending September 2018.
But the rate of crime per 1,000 residents remains lower in Essex (79.1) than on average across the country (86.4).
While weapons possession increased by a quarter (24% to 2,082), offences involving the actual use of knives or sharp instruments fell by 29% – although the reported fall is likely to be related more to how crime is recorded than the number of offences having taken place, and police are working with the Home Office on a way of better reflecting the proportion of crimes in future data.
There were also falls in other types of crime, including burglary (down 6% to 12,371) and bike theft (down 19% to 2,226).
In the same time, Essex Police added 103 officers, eight PCSOs and 86 special constables to its ranks.
The Home Office workforce figures were released on the same day as publication of the annual crime statistics – and as the Home Secretary announced aggregate amount of grants for each force in the latest police funding settlement for 2019/20.
Essex will receive £103.5 million in core settlement and £56m from the former Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) funding formula, along with a £13m in legacy council tax grants, payable to local policing bodies which chose to freeze or lower their share of council tax between 2011 and 2016.
The police and crime commissioner’s proposed council tax precept increase to pay for the recruitment of additional officers was also approved yesterday.
In November, Colchester man Samuel Apenteng was jailed for a year and eight months for sexual assault and stalking.
The 33-year-old, of Bardsley Close, who stalked one woman for three months before sexually assaulted her, was caught after his victim took a photograph of him and sent it to police, who issued the image on social media channels and received calls from two other teenage victims.
An Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworker (ISAC) for Essex based charity Changing Pathways said there had been a recent improvement in recognition of the crime and more appropriate recording by police.
She said victims often suffer from long-term trust issues, isolation, and aversion to technology, brought on by the increasingly sophisticated methods of perpetrators.
Some clients, she said, had been stalked through hacked fitness trackers and cloud-based voice devices.
Just two of her cases in the last year had been related to stalking in the ‘traditional’ sense of physical pursuit, she added.
The 2005 shooting of Harvey Nichols shop beauty consultant Clare Bernal by Michal Pech, a former security guard at the London store, highlighted the sinister nature of a crime sometimes glibly dismissed as ‘unwanted attention’, said the case worker.
“For every victim, there is an impact on society,” she added.
“Awareness is changing, but we’re where domestic abuse was about 20 years ago, when it was referred as ‘a domestic’ and brushed under the swept under the carpet. Now, everyone understands the impact and safeguards are in place.”
An Essex Police spokesman said: “Any crime is awful to experience, but today’s data shows it is also rare, with 79 people out of every 1,000 in Essex reporting a crime in the twelve months to the end of September 2018.
“Crime is going up across the country but Essex remains a safe county to live and work in.
“The continuing reduction in burglaries means people are safer in their homes, with around two fewer burglaries every day in Essex than last year.
“However, we remain concerned about increases in violent crime including domestic abuse, crime related to gangs and drugs and sexual offences.
“Our priorities remain on violent crime, vulnerable people, doing more for victims and, crucially, a more local and visible presence across the county. That’s why we are increasing the number of police officers making Essex safer.
“Today’s figures on police workforce also show that the number of Essex Police special constables has increased by 22% in the last year – the third largest increase in the country.
“We have the largest number of specials in any non-metropolitan police force – a great testament to the Essex volunteer spirit.”
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