There were almost five stalking and harassment cases reported on average every day in South Tyneside last year, figures reveal.
Office for National Statistics data shows that in South Tyneside, 1,789 cases of stalking, harassment or malicious communications were reported between October 2017 and September 2018.
Of the three crimes included in the figures, stalking is the most serious, and can include following someone, repeatedly going uninvited to their home and monitoring their use of phones and computers.
Over the last five years, the number of recorded stalking and harassment cases has increased 17-fold in South Tyneside.
The Home Office says police recording has improved and victims are feeling more empowered to come forward.
However, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the police watchdog, recently published a report stating that stalking and harassment are not being investigated by police consistently or effectively.
It says there is no single definition of the crime, which means “police forces are not consistently identifying stalking and are not protecting victims as a result”.
HMICFRS adds that forces nationally are not using powers under stalking laws to search perpetrators’ homes so investigations are “not as thorough as they could be”.
The watchdog has given the National Police Chiefs’ Council six months to adopt a series of recommendations.
Northumbria Police only brought charges in 8% of the stalking and harassment cases they investigated.
Det Chief Insp Eric Myers, who is Northumbria Police’s lead for stalking and harassment, believes that more people are now aware of stalking and harassment and understand how important it is to report it to police.
He said: “We have made significant improvements over the past few years in relation to how we deal with reports of stalking and harassment. Our priority is making sure officers will listen to the victim, make appropriate decisions and most importantly take action to make sure the victim is safe.
“All our officers have been specially trained to go beyond the surface and spot the signs of someone being stalked or harassed.”
Lucy Hadley, campaigns and public affairs manager at Women’s Aid domestic abuse charity, said: “It is concerning that police forces are continuing to fall short when it comes to effectively handle stalking and harassment cases and give the appropriate level of support that survivors desperately need.”