Stalking and harassment crimes rose 29 per cent in Watford despite most other areas of crime dropping significantly during the pandemic.

Overall there were 7,432 crimes reported to Hertfordshire Constabulary in the 12 months to March compared to 9,523 the previous year – a 22 per cent drop.

Among them was 602 incidents of stalking and sexual harassment – the only crime area to rise – with sharp falls in theft (33%), criminal damage (20%), and possession of weapons (20%).

Watford’s figures mirrored a national trend that saw 13 per cent fewer crimes overall but a 28 per cent rise in stalking and harassment across England and Wales.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which supports stalking victims, claimed it was driven by an increase in cyber stalking during the pandemic.

Violet Alvarez, spokesperson from the trust, said: "We know that domestic abuse has risen drastically during the pandemic, and this is evident in the rise of ex-intimate partner stalking cases that we have seen on the helpline."

She said specialist training across police forces and courts was needed to ensure victims were adequately cared for and understood.

Billy Gazard, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on patterns of crime.

"There were large decreases in theft offences, such as domestic burglary and theft from the person, as more people stayed at home and limited their social contact."

Crimes recorded in Watford included:

  • 229 sexual offences, a decrease of 13%
  • 2,560 violent offences, a decrease of 9%
  • 621 incidents of criminal damage and arson, down 20%
  • 329 drug offences, down 10%
  • 78 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, down 20%
  • 559 public order offences, down 14%
  • 2,795 theft offences, down 33%