Another year has passed and children continue to suffer whilst too little is done to protect them. With the passing of every month we see new unregulated paedophile hunters emerge. They are a response, in part at least to the frustration and anger we all feel when we hear that another child has been groomed online, lured to meet offline and abused. Whatever is being done to prevent children being hurt, it’s just not good enough.
So what is the answer? Do we throw our hands in the air and cry that it’s just too difficult? Do we hide behind the austerity blanket that says we cannot afford to do more? Do we allow ourselves to be worn down and just write-off the lives of the unlucky children who live in proximity to these deviants? Or do we fight back for our children.
The confused, muddled approach by government and the never ending headlines that make us feel we are losing the battle makes me angry; really angry, so I understand the type of anger that fuels many of the vigilantes who go online – the unregulated ‘paedophile hunters’, but they are not the answer. They do however prove that you don’t need to be a police officer to catch these people, you do however need to be fundamentally engaged with the criminal justice system.
Special Constables, uniformed citizen volunteers walk the streets of our towns and villages every week. Their presence deters offenders, makes people safer and critically makes them feel safer. There is absolutely no reason they cannot patrol the online spaces. The volunteer butcher, baker or candlestick maker can be trained to seek out these abusers, to identify, locate and lure them to a place where the police arrest them.
We sometimes see the very best of people in the worst of times. Communities across the UK are filled with good, in fact great decent people. People who care enough to make a difference. Now is the time to call up that citizen’s army, vet, train and equip them to support the police by mounting an offensive against this online army of sexual predators.
It is time to turn the tables. If every force recruited only 20 volunteers we would be able to place almost 1,000 undercover digital detectives online rather than the handful being overwhelmed now.
Amended and updated extract from a blog by Jim Gamble in 2014