More than 11,000 people in Norfolk were victims of stalking or harassment last year, making it the second most common type of crime in the county.

The figure represents a 46 per cent leap on the previous year, and a nearly fourfold increase since 2017, following two changes to reporting methods which anti-stalking campaigners have hailed as steps in the right direction.

The data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that stalking and harassment is almost as common as theft in Norfolk, with the force recording 11,611 theft offences in the year to September 2021.

There were 11,058 instances of stalking and harassment over the same period, up from 7,570 the year before and from 2,885 in the year ending September 2017, the first year in which records were kept.

Rachel Horman-Brown, spokeswoman for the national stalking advocacy service Paladin, said: “One of the biggest problems is the reaction of police when victims report stalking. Often they feel fobbed off, or made to feel they’re wasting police time.”

Megan Campbell, who moved from Buckinghamshire to Norfolk to escape her former partner, said the force still isn’t taking stalking seriously enough.

“On multiple occasions they ignored my former partner harassing me, they’ve not been very helpful and made me feel it wasn’t really worth my time reporting the offences.

“I didn’t feel taken seriously. They lost evidence I gave them - twice.

“I don’t think anyone takes it seriously enough and that’s the problem. How many times does someone have to get away with something before it gets dangerous?”

But assistant chief constable Nick Davison said the force takes reports of stalking and harassment very seriously and had provided additional training to officers.

Eastern Daily Press: Assistant chief constable Nick Davison.Assistant chief constable Nick Davison. (Image: Norfolk Constabulary)

He put the increases down to factors including increased awareness, greater confidence from victims in reporting, the reporting change, and the force's own high reporting standards.

Since April 2018, in cases involving behaviour of a former partner towards their victim, police must record a separate offence of stalking, in addition to the most serious offence committed.

And since April 2020 the Home Office clarified that where the conduct is between ex-partners and there is evidence of targeted, unwanted and repeated conduct, it should be recorded as stalking.