The Met’s Stalking Threat Assessment Centre (STAC) will continue to support victims during COVID-19 crisis as National Stalking Awareness Week 2020 launches.
Speaking yesterday at the start of National Stalking Awareness Week 2020 (NSAW20), Detective Inspector Lee Barnard, the Met’s lead for STAC, said:
“We continue to work with partners from across the board including health services, the Probation Service and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. We are continuing to support victims of stalking, even under the public health crisis that is Coronavirus.
“Stalking remains our top most priority, and although most people are now homebound, stalking will continue and fixations and behaviours may change for perpetrators. I want to reassure anyone who thinks they are a victim to contact the police – we are still here to help you.”
This years’ theme for NSAW is ‘See Stalking Clearly’ and is to ensure stalking victims are still visible and supported throughout the response to COVID-19 through the National Stalking Helpline, police and other services.
DI Barnard, added:
“Stalking is defined as a pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim. Whilst we believe that physical stalking may possibly reduce due to Coronavirus, we know that perpetrators might look to harass their victims via social media or other forms of technology such as phones or emails.
“Whilst stalking of this type is relatively uncommon, there are a variety of softwares that can be downloaded covertly onto another person’s mobile phone. These are capable of monitoring messages, calls, social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram etc), GPS, contacts, notes, photos, videos and emails. The majority of these are advertised as applications to protect children but can easily be exploited for a more sinister purpose.
“We understand that this technology is no doubt well intentioned and justified upon creation (e.g. knowing where your child is; ensuring the safety of remote workers in hazardous industries), however I would advise anyone who believes such a software has been downloaded onto their phone should stop using it immediately and delete the app. As and when it is possible, you should take your mobile to a provider or a computer repair expert for advice.”
Further advice on protecting yourself online is:
• restrict your social media posts to your friends and not public;
• check privacy settings on social networking sites and limit the amount of information you supply;
• Google yourself frequently to check your digital footprint;
• don’t use the same password for everything;
• be aware of geolocation and tagging on social networking sites and ensure that it’s disabled on your smartphone;
• keep your antivirus software up to date;
• report stalking to website administrators.
There has been an increase in the number of victims reporting stalking offences over the last year. In April 18 – March 19, the number of victims was 1,540. This has increased to 1,629 in April 19 – March 20. 86% of the 1,629 victims were female and 14% were male.
DI Barnard concluded:
“This is actually good news that the number of reports are rising, it means that victims are having confidence to tell us what is happening so we can take action to protect them.
“Stalking remains a ‘hidden’ offence, so seeing an increase is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.”
Anyone who believes they are a victim of stalking is urged to call the National Stalking Helpline in 0808 802 0300.
You can also contact the Metropolitan Police Service via 999 in an emergency or 101 in non-urgent circumstances. You can also tweet @MetCC.