Abuse allegations made against Jimmy Savile while he was alive could have been linked to show "a pattern of behaviour", Scotland Yard's commissioner said.
Bernard Hogan Howe said police and other organisations hadn't "put together" claims made against the disgraced television presenter. Members of the public may also have been discouraged from taking action because of Savile's reputation at the time, he said.
The commissioner told reporters: "You might have thought that people would at least have talked about it and intervened. It does look as if from time to time people have been concerned, they've made the start to intervene, but probably then they've relied a little bit too much on his reputation and his word that he did nothing.
"If you accept all the public accounts of the activity then it's possibly spanned 50 years which is a huge amount of time.
"First of all within an organisation that's got everybody's respect, but probably it appears that people haven't intervened when they've had suspicions.
"Then of course other organisations including the police have had individual allegations that have not been put together to actually show that this person may well have shown a pattern of behaviour that's been pretty awful."
Four police forces were contacted by seven potential victims while Savile was alive. Surrey, Sussex and Jersey all found that there wasn't enough evidence to proceed.
Two potential victims came forward to Scotland Yard - one of whom claimed she had been abused in the 1970s but didn't want to pursue a criminal investigation. Officers are trying to find the original file relating to a second claim made by a woman who claimed she was assaulted in the 1980s.
Mr Hogan Howe said a lot of what happened was before changes were made to the sharing of police data.
A team of 30 officers are currently investigating three categories of allegations: those involving Savile, those involving Savile and others, and those involving others.