STALKING and harassment offences increased across County Durham and Darlington in the past year. 

The worrying rise of local offences contributed to a 28 per cent increase across England and Wales in the year ending in March, compared to the previous 12 months.

County Durham recorded 10,122 offences in the time period - up 10 per cent. In Darlington, 2,019 offences were reported - up one per cent. 

This was driven by an increase in cyber stalking cases during the pandemic, according to victim support charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison called on the government to ensure the safety of women and girls from violence after sharing her own experience of being followed home last week. 

Davison was speaking at a Home Affairs Select Committee after the Government launched its strategy to ensure women and girls are safe at home, online and on the streets.
The review is published against a backdrop of dismal conviction rates for rape, despite the number of reported incidents on the rise.

“Just last week I was followed home by someone on [my] walk from work who did an about turn on a bridge and asked me all kinds of questions,” Ms Davison told the hearing. “Unfortunately far too many women have experienced this.”

The Bishop Auckland MP asked how the Government plans to raise awareness of the Safer Streets Fund - a £45m scheme to provide women and girls with a way to anonymously and quickly pinpoint areas where they have felt unsafe and say why. 

Ms Davison was praised by Home Secretary Priti Patel for raising the sensitive issue. She added: “Your own example, being followed home, is just not acceptable. Every day we have this and I saw it through the consultation. This is harrowing.”

Up to 20,000 more police officers will be recruited as the government bids to make streets safer.

And Ms Patel said a separate £3m will go towards a “national campaign focused on raising awareness and ultimately trying to do much more around behavioural change”.

The Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls strategy includes the creation of a new national policing lead to  improve the response times to such crimes.

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