Published: 00:01, 30 August 2017
The head of an online paedophile hunting group at the centre of the latest "vigilante" sting in Canterbury claims his team are "putting Kent Police to shame".
Gary Shield, who set up Silent Justice last year, says it is "outperforming" the county's force, in spite of limited resources.
But Kent Police has quickly dismissed the claims, producing figures for the number of arrests made by its paedophile online investigation team and those generated by so-called vigilante groups.
Their response follows the arrest of a man in Starle Close, Canterbury, on suspicion of grooming.
Members of Silent Justice confronted the 55-year-old, alleging to have evidence he was arranging to meet a child for sex.
As with other stings carried out across the country by the group, it was live-streamed on Facebook and the police called, with the man later bailed.
But despite the arrest, Mr Shield accuses Kent Police of lacking interest in grooming cases.
“They’re not interested at all,” he said.
“At the weekend, like every time we’ve come down, we put them to shame. We embarrass them.”
Mr Shield claims in one week this month nine groomers across Britain were convicted due to stings he organised, a number he says Kent Police “could only dream of”.
He said: “With all the money, the intelligence, the people they have on the ground, why are we outperforming them?
“It takes us weeks to get a job done, but it takes the police months and then the offenders are bailed.”
Approached with Mr Shield’s claims, Kent Police says its paedophile investigation officers had made 168 arrests in the past year, compared with 15 sparked by online "hunting" groups.
It also warned against people taking the law into their own hands, claiming it can jeopardise investigations and potential convictions.
Det Ch Supt Tom Richards, head of Kent Police’s public protection unit, said: “All allegations are taken seriously but police time spent investigating incidents involving ‘pretend’ children diverts them from investigating the actual abuse of children.
“No actual children have been harmed or found to be at risk from any of the people caught by vigilante stings in Kent.
"The chances of an actual child meeting someone they’ve met online and becoming a victim of this sort of offence is extremely low.”
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