Hereford paedophile hunter says police 'too stretched' to target predators
A paedophile hunter says he has been forced to target online predators because the police are "too stretched" to cope.
David John Poole, from Hereford, poses online as a 14-year-old girl and says he has been sent hundreds of explicit messages.
He says his work has led to two arrests in four weeks.
West Mercia Police said the police do not encourage members of the public to pursue their own investigations.
'Under the radar'
Mr Poole said he set up the organisation he calls "H Division" about four weeks ago after his teenage son was targeted by online paedophiles.
He uses an online profile of a teenage girl to target alleged paedophiles and arranges to meet them in person - in so-called "sting" operations - before calling the police with his evidence.
He says his work has led to two arrests so far, with one suspect remanded and one on bail.
"I am not trying to do the police's work," he said. "The evidence I find is tip-top.
"I think the police need people like me, otherwise these cases would go under the radar because the police are so stretched."
- In 2016, according to the Home Office, West Mercia Police had just over 2,000 officers - a figure that has remained constant for the past three years
- According to a Freedom of Information request, the force arrested 59 people for grooming offences from 2012-2016
- Simon Bailey, a spokesman for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), says claims that forces are not making arrests are wide of the mark. "We are the most active in the world at the moment. My great concern is that… little if any consideration is being given to the broader safeguarding risks. Whilst we may hear about the successful stings they have run... there is a risk to destruction of evidence that might convict them in due course."
Det Ch Insp Jon Roberts, from the force, said: "While we understand that this is a very emotive subject, the police do not encourage members of the public to pursue their own investigations.
"This can compromise ongoing police investigations.
"Identifying alleged paedophiles is best left to the police who can ensure vulnerable victims are protected."