The Government has been urged by a former senior RUC officer to fund training for so-called 'paedophile hunters' who track down and expose sex offenders.
Jim Gamble, who headed the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre until 2010, said funding could be used to create a "citizens' army" of detectives who could be given similar training as Special Constables.
The child protection expert said the vigilantes should be vetted as part of a process that could help ongoing police investigations.
Several groups of self-styled detectives have taken on the role of hunting down paedophiles by setting up decoy social media profiles and posing as under-age boys and girls.
These paedophile hunters wait for the perpetrators to contact them and issue an invitation to meet them.
At the meeting the suspect is confronted by the group, who usually film the incident and post it online to warn others.
Mr Gamble said: "I understand exactly why they are doing it.
"I agree with them. There are too few police to engage with them effectively.
"Everybody understands why they are doing what they are doing and the frustration.
"The Government needs to pay for it.
"You don't need to be a long-serving officer to do what they are doing."
The former Special Branch detective added: "There is no way that the police resource matches the need or demand. I work with police officers every day and I don't hear them saying: 'We have got enough'.
"The Home Office is so busy looking backwards that they can't actually look forwards."
Mr Gamble urged the Government to fund the creation of the amateur detectives.
"Journalists, social workers, teachers, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker - whoever felt strongly could come forward," he added.
"Rather than sitting in their house at night on their family computer, they could go to the police station to a room with special equipment and wait to be approached. It would professionalise and make safer the process."
Earlier this year the online safety expert proposed that the law be amended so that a child who takes or distributes a picture of him or herself will not commit a criminal offence.
He recommended that provision should be made in law that a child who has an image of another child with malicious intent would commit a criminal offence.