Stalking cases in Portsmouth increase seven-fold in five years – but victim support organisation say it may be a positive thing

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OVER the last five years there has been an enormous surge in the number of stalking and harassment cases in the area but an organisation that supports victims say the news may be positive.

Almost four cases of stalking and harassment were reported every day in Portsmouth last year and between October 2017 and September 2018 1,382 cases of stalking, harassment or malicious communications were reported in the city according to the Office for National Statistics data.

Stalking cases have increased seven-fold in the last five year. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Stalking cases have increased seven-fold in the last five year. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

In the same time period, there were 404 cases of stalking, harassment or malicious communications in Fareham and in Havant and Gosport there were 722 cases and 476 cases reported respectively and both areas saw a ten fold increase.

But Lucy Kay from Aurora New Dawn says the increase in figures may be more positive than negative.

She said: ‘There has been an increase in the number of tech-facilitated abuse and I think that is because technology is now a part of us but I think this increase in cases does show that more people are now reporting incidents.

‘It also shows that people have confidence in the police  and that officers are recording these cases appropriately.’

In a bid to help people with obsessive thoughts and behaviours about others,  a county pilot scheme is helping to change their thinking.

Southern Health launched the Recolo project six months ago in partnership with police, probation and victim advocacy colleagues.

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The Recolo project (Latin for ‘renew or think again’) works with stalking perpetrators to make positive behavioural changes - improving their psychological wellbeing, their relationships with other people and reducing the risks of unlawful stalking behaviour and the impact on their potential victims.

Dr Kirsty Butcher, joint clinical lead for Hampshire’s new mental health service, said: ‘In just the first six months, the Recolo service has already received more than 80 referrals, predominantly from the police but also from the probation service and other healthcare colleagues.

‘We’re able to offer a range of assessments, treatments, consultations, signposting and monitoring to these individuals in order to attempt to change their patterns of behaviour, which will improve both their lives and importantly those of the people they’ve become fixated with.’

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The members of the Recolo project team includes a psychiatrist, psychologist and occupational therapist and they have been able to group perpetrator behaviours into five distinct stalker categories.

- ‘Rejected’ stalking (69 per cent) arising after the breakdown of a close relationship.

- The ‘incompetent suitor’ (12 per cent) prompted by loneliness with impaired social skills, who targets strangers or acquaintances often for brief period.

- ‘Predatory’ stalkers (6.5 per cent) usually men who develop a sexual interest in a female stranger.

- ‘Resentful’ stalking (6 per cent) which happens when someone feels they’ve been mistreated by an individual or organisation.

- The ‘intimacy seeker’ (6.5 per cent) which arises out loneliness and a desire for a relationship with a stranger or acquaintance, often fuelled by the delusional belief that they’re already in a relationship, even though none exists.

Dr Butcher added: ‘I have to say, we are really encouraged by the feedback we’ve had to this new service since we launched it last autumn and we plan to continue developing our service - linking with the judiciary in coming months to increase awareness of the project, as well as providing more training on stalking for our partners.’

The Recolo project team works alongside Hampshire Constabulary, Hampshire and Isle of Wight probation teams and Aurora New Dawn, a victim advocacy organisation, as part of the Multi-Agency Stalking Intervention Programme (MASIP).

MASIP is an 18 month pilot, coordinated by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and running until February 2020, in which three areas (Hampshire, Cheshire and London) form multi-agency partnerships to test out intervention programmes with the aim of reducing offending rates.

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Lucy added: ‘Aurora New Dawn is pleased to be a part of this scheme as although our work predominantly involves supporting the victim we know that the stalker doesn’t stop because we are helping the victim.

‘Intervention with the stalker is key and although the project won’t suit everyone, it does help those where it is a mental health problem that professionals can help with.’