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    Phone Alerts to Help Stalking Victims Who Face 'Murder in Slow Motion'

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    Stalking victims in London are to be offered special phone alerts which will be triggered if the perpetrator is nearby. The system was one of a range of "innovative" measures which will be offered by a new Stalking Threat Assessment Centre.

    Police in London are planning to turn the tables on stalkers who use new technology to track and monitor their victims.

    Detective Inspector Lee Barnard, who will head up the Metropolitan Police's new Stalking Threat Assessment Centre (STAC), said on Thursday, May 10, some stalkers would be given electronic tags and these would be rigged up so they triggered an alert on the victim's smartphone if they came within a certain distance.

    "We are aware that some stalkers use spyware and tracking devices to monitor their victims' movements and if think your phone has been hacked or whatever you should contact the police but we want to use new technology to protect victims as well as for spotting offenders," Det. Insp. Barnard told Sputnik.

    20 Percent of Women are Stalked

    One in five women and one in ten men will experience stalking in their adult lives and in a small number of cases the stalker goes on to attack and even murder their victim.

    In September 2005 Clare Bernal, a beauty consultant who worked in the Harvey Nichols department store in central London, was shot dead by her jilted boyfriend Michael Pech, who had bought the gun in his native Slovakia and smuggled it into Britain.

    But the victims are not always adults. In June 2008 Thomas Nugusse stabbed to death his former girlfriend, 15-year-old Arsema Dawit, in the stairwell of a block of flats near London's Waterloo station.

    Dr. Frank Farnham, clinical lead at the National Stalking Clinic, said stalkers could be divided into two types.

    One was an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband who failed to accept rejection and in some cases was motivated by an attitude of "If I can't have her no-one will."

    Mentally Ill Stalkers

    The other type were people who were deluded and believed they had some sort of relationship with a stranger — sometimes a celebrity — and in the majority of these cases they were suffering from a mental illness.

    Dr. Farnham has been heavily involved with the Fixed Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC), which was set up in 2006 and monitors individuals who have grudges or delusions about members of the Royal Family, famous people or religious figures like The Pope.

    Last year 1,197 people were convicted of stalking in London — up from 181 in 2013, a year after stalking was introduced as a criminal offense in its own right.

    Det. Insp. Barnard said the STAC would see eight police officers, two nurses, a psychiatrist and a psychologist working alongside a victim's advocate to assess new stalking cases which were referred to them.

    He said even if stalkers were non-violent their actions could be extremely intimidating and unwelcome and he said some would send up to 300 text messages a day and show up at their victims' workplaces, homes and even at stations as they commuted to and from work.

    Stalker Wrote Hundreds of Song Lyrics

    "In one case an offender's home contained hundreds of handwritten song lyrics piled from floor to ceiling with a knife embedded in a book and messages written in blood. Another man was found with a spade, a pitchfork, a pole, bricks and a pair of gloves in his car and a notebook with his victims' movements in it," said Det. Insp. Barnard, who was involved in the investigation into the attempted murder of Labour MP Stephen Timms in May 2010.

    Claire Waxman, the Independent Victims' Commissioner for London, was herself a victim of stalking for many years.

    "Stalking can have a devastating effect and victims often suffer extreme psychological trauma…I have spoken to many victims and one referred to it as being like 'murder in slow motion'," said Ms. Waxman.

    The Commissioner of the Met, Cressida Dick, said at a briefing on Thursday she accepted the Met had failed in the past to treat stalking victims seriously.

    "We are all aware of some notorious and sad cases where people have been stalked and then murdered," said Ms. Dick.

    But she promised the new unit — which is funded to the tune of £1.4 million (US$1.17 million) by the Home Office for a two-year pilot — would massively improve the service to stalking victims.

    As well as the London unit there will also be stalking threat assessment centers in Cheshire and Hampshire, all of which will be supported by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which was set up by the mother of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, who was murdered in 1986.

    Related:

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    'Slap on the Wrist' Penalties for Stalking Lead to Murder, UK Study Finds
    'Mentally Challenged' Woman Arrested After Years of Stalking Hawking
    US State Department Official Pleads Guilty to Stalking Women
    Tags:
    stalking, relationship, mentally ill, murder, Metropolitan Police, Home Office, Cressida Dick, United Kingdom, London
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