The Met Police has launched a specialist unit dedicated to tackling stalking amid a sharp rise in the number of related offences.
The newly established Stalking Threat Assessment Centre will see three police forces, an NHS Trust and a leading charity join together to help combat the crime which affects one in five women, and one in ten men.
More than 1,000 reports of stalking were recorded by police in London in 2017, and there were 12,000 reports of harassment.
Rachel Griffin, the head of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Hotline, said: “Stalking is a devastating crime which is characterised by obsession and fixation, and commonly causes prolonged suffering for victims.
“Our aim for this pilot is to improve the way that key information is shared between agencies, better protecting victims of stalking.”
A number of high-profile cases have recently highlighted the crime - Edward Vines was jailed in January for stalking BBC journalist Emily Maitlis.
And in February, Joshua Simpson was jailed for life stalking and then murdering his ex-girlfriend, Molly McLaren, after she ended their relationship.
A team of expert police officers, mental health specialists and victim advocates will be based at the centre to investigate high-risk stalking allegations and offer expert advice to local officers, assisting with plans to protect the victim and public from the stalker.
Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, said: “When we think of the impact on victims, violence is the most obvious concern that comes to mind, but, psychologically, stalking can also have a devastating impact that can leave victims feeling like they have no options but to alter their entire way of life.”
In a blog for HuffPost UK, Labour MP Sarah Champion retold testimony from a stalking survivor in her constituency. “You carry it all the time. It’s with you day in, day out.
“Day in, day out. It’s in the back of your mind all the time. What is he going to do? What are we going to find? Who is going to come knocking at our door?’”
Officers believe the introduction of the unit will lead to an increase in the number of stalking offences recorded, as experts better advise local police to spot the early signs.
The team will also identify perpetrators who may be suitable to undertake a behaviour change programme.
These individuals may also be referred to other services, such as local mental health units, or drug and alcohol programmes. The National Probation Service will work alongside officers to manage the ongoing risk such offenders pose to the community and to their victim.
In London alone the number of stalking offences has soared by more than 50% in the last year. There were 952 stalking crimes recorded in the capital in 2017, compared with 612 in 2016.