MORE than 11,000 cases of stalking and harassment were recorded by West Midlands Police in the last year, latest figures show.

Crime statistics published by the Office of National Statistics show the number of cases recorded by West Midlands Police for the 12 months leading up to June 30 2018 was more than double the figure recorded for the same period three years earlier.

There were 11,258 recorded offences in the year ending June 2018 - compared to 5,031 recorded offences during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2015.

The ONS Centre for Crime and Justice says the increase is likely due to improvements in recording such crimes, particularly offences of malicious communications - the sending of electronic messages designed to cause anxiety or distress - which are categorised under stalking and harassment offences, rather than reflecting a real rise in the number of cases occurring.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “Recording of these crimes has changed and like many other hidden crimes, we are now seeing it reported and recorded more accurately which allows the police to take more action.

“West Midlands Police are constantly working on tackling these crimes and encouraging those who are victims to report it.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust says the recorded figures represent just a tiny percentage of cases that occur each year and charity bosses believe offences of harassment (including racially or religiously aggravated harassment), stalking and malicious communications, which all come under the category of stalking and harassment, should be recognised as distinct crimes rather than merged into one figure.

Stalking, which became a criminal offence in November 2012, is a pattern of repeated and persistent unwanted behaviour that creates fear and distress such as unwanted gift giving, monitoring or following a person, turning up at their home, place of work or leisure destination. Harassment can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contact upon a victim in a manner that could cause alarm, distress or intimidation.

Stourbridge mum Sam Billingham, founder of the charity Survivors of Domestic Abuse (SODA), says she experienced stalking after fleeing an abusive relationship.

She said: "A lot of people think it’s physical but it’s about power and control. It's fixated and obsessive behaviour that gives that person power and control. I remember saying to police 'everywhere I go - he's there'. You can't live your life. It's intimidating - you are really petrified.

"I encourage everyone to record and report incidents of unwanted gifts, dates and times, and to keep reporting it to build up a portfolio of evidence."

Earlier this year the CPS and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) introduced new measures to help police and prosecutors recognise the difference between stalking and harassment and respond effectively.

Meanwhile - a Bill which aims to secure more protection for stalking victims is currently going through the House of Lords.

The Stalking Protection Bill, if approved, will see Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) introduced – giving police the power to address the danger perpetrators pose while they gather more evidence.

The orders would enable police to stop offenders contacting or getting too close to their victim; they could even require stalkers to be psychologically assessed or to attend rehabilitation programmes to help prevent reoffending. Stalkers caught breaching an order would also face up to five years in prison.

There is also an online campaign calling for the creation of a stalkers' register, similar to the sex offenders' register, to help people avoid falling victim to known stalkers.

To sign the petition go to

Black Country Women’s Aid offers support to victims of stalking and harassment across the Black Country area and Mr Jamieson said he was "examing this service to see whether it should be extended across the whole of the West Midlands force area".

Anyone in need of help or advice can contact the charity on 0121 553 0090, 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, or call the 24-hour helpline on 0121 552 6448 if in need of advice or a refuge outside office hours.

People can also reach out to SODA via website or call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.

Anyone in immediate danger should call police on 999.