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  1. ITV Report

The police unit set up to protect stalking victims and reform offenders

A specialist unit aimed at protecting victims of stalking has been launched in a bid to protect victims and attempt to reform the behaviour of offenders.

The number of cases of stalking in England and Wales have nearly doubled in the past year from 4,500 in 2016 to 8,300 in 2017.

The integrated anti-stalking unit in Cheshire brings together police officers, charity workers, and mental health staff.

It is the first of its kind in the North West, and only the second in the UK.

Detective Chief Superintendent Nigel Wenham, Cheshire Police Public Protection Directorate told ITV News: "We knew that we couldn't continue as we are in isolation, we needed to have a collaborative approach with people around a table making informed decisions.

The integrated anti-stalking unit in Cheshire. Credit: ITV News

"This approach is innovative ... exciting and gives them the opportunity to give an improved service to victims of stalking."

The aim is to support the victims while reducing the risk of reoffending by working with the perpetrator to learn why the unwanted attention occurs.

Det Ch Supt Wenham said the team will offer a different service depending on the assessment of the risk as some victims will need more support.

"Stalkers are driven by obsession, by fixation and sometimes a psychological issue. It's a complex crime that has as devastating impact on victims," he said.

"No one should have to suffer at the hands of a stalker" or spend the rest of their lives "looking over your shoulder".