Victims of stalking are being let down because police are not investigating offences properly, it was today claimed.
Lancashire Police dealt with just 117 cases of stalking and harassment in the last three years.
However, the true scale of the problem is “way more than that”, according to a Lancashire-based solicitor who regularly deals with stalking cases on the Fylde coast.
Rachel Horman, who is also the chairman of the board for national stalking advocacy service Paladin, said: “I personally deal with more cases than that – there are dozens a week.”
She called for better training within the police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure such cases are properly identified and dealt with.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show police investigated just 25 allegations of stalking and harassment on the Fylde coast between 2012 and 2014.
Ms Horman said too often reports are dealt with as lesser offences because officers fail to spot the underlying pattern of abuse. She added: “It’s not that people are not reporting it – they report it all the time.
“There’s a tendency to concentrate on the latest incident but when you add them up, it becomes much more serious.
“By the time someone reports it to the police, on average, they will have experienced 100 incidents.
“Lancashire Police may do better than other forces but it is still pretty poor in this area.”
Over the three years, fewer than a third of alleged stalkers were charged.
Charges were brought in 32 of the 117 investigations and a further seven offenders were cautioned.
Police did not record an outcome in half of the reported incidents.
Det Supt Sue Cawley, head of Lancashire Police’s Public Protection Unit, said under-reporting by victims was a problem.
She added: “For some people it’s almost a nuisance they live with.
“Rather than looking at it as pattern of behaviour that amounts to stalking, often people will change their routines or behaviour to avoid the person who is harassing them.
“If people are having to change their routine or personal life to avoid contact with an individual, that is at the very least harassment.”
Victims of stalking can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.