Beds Police is supporting a stalking awareness initiative taking place this week.
Stalking and harassment affects millions of people in the UK and can have a devastating impact on victims, in some cases forcing them to change their daily routines and behaviours.
Bedfordshire Police’s investigations relating to stalking and harassment can sometimes be linked to some of the most serious crimes the force deals with, but it is keen to help residents spot the signs and ensure any suspicious activity is reported at an early stage.
Stalking can be defined as persistent and unwanted attention causing a victim to feel pestered and harassed, and can affect people of all ages, ethnic origins and genders.
Figures suggest 80 per cent of stalking victims are women, while one fifth (20 per cent) are men. In more than 80 per cent of cases, the victims are stalked by someone they know – whether it be a former partner, work colleague, family member or acquaintance.
In addition, the threat posed by advances in technology has allowed for stalking to translate from the real world into cyberspace.
As well as physical stalking behaviours such as following and watching victims, the crime now also takes place in the virtual world, with offenders targeting victims through persistent calls, disturbing emails and text messages and social media abuse, sometimes referred to as ‘trolling’.
Detective Superintendent Jon Gilbert, leading Bedfordshire Police’s Cybercrime team, said: “Stalking has become a cyber-enabled crime, allowing offenders to seek out their victims using social media and various technological means.
“Many of us now live our lives through Facebook and Twitter, but for those who have been a victim of trolling or persistent messaging, these social networks are a platform for distressing and often terrifying harassment.
“My message to stalkers – whether you are acting in real life or online – is that if you follow this threatening course of conduct, beware that this issue will be reported to us and we will take action against you.”
Bedfordshire Police will be posting information and advice relating to stalking throughout this week, using its Facebook page www.facebook.com/bedspolice and Twitter account @BedsPolice.
To follow all the tweets surrounding the initiative, follow the hashtag #NSAW2015.
The posts will feature facts and tips to encourage victims to come forward and report crimes, as well as personal safety messages for all Bedfordshire residents to help them spot the signs of stalking.
If you think you are being stalked, seek advice from Bedfordshire Police or report an incident by calling 101.
Always call 999 if you believe you are in immediate danger.