A former senior police officer who was once in charge of preventing child exploitation online has said police forces should tap into the frustration people fell over child abuse and recruit them to hunt down offenders.
Figures revealed this week showed that police forces in England and Wales used evidence from so-called "paedophile hunters" to secure convictions. There have been no cases in Northern Ireland which used evidence from the vigilantes and the PSNI has sent a strong message saying that only its officers should handle the crime fighting.
Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and ex-RUC officer, said proper police vetting should be able to bring the right people on board to help hunt down those child abusers.
He told the BBC police should create a special role of online detectives, similar to special constables, who would not have full officer powers.
"Capture the frustration that people feel, recruit public-spirited individuals, make sure they've got the right character," he said.
"Then train them, equip them to carry out this job as digital detectives and we could create an army of over 1,000, if every force just recruited 25 volunteers."
He added: "These are volunteers, these are publicly-minded, good citizens who want to make a difference."
Last month a Northern Ireland man was driven to suicide after he was confronted by so-called paedophile hunters online.