The British police chief in charge of child protection says an estimated 20,000 men have shown an interest in sexually abusing children, the media reported.
Officer Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on child protection, on Friday said investigators monitoring a single online chatroom in 2017 identified 4,000 men using it from the UK alone, the Guardian reported.
Bailey estimated the number of men interested in sexually abusing children at more than 20,000.
He added that limited resources meant not all perpetrators could be tackled, with the police forced to focus on the most dangerous offenders.
“We are having to prioritize the threat… Some lower-level offenders cannot be arrested and taken to court. There is just not the capacity.”
Bailey warned that a growing threat to children came from live streaming and said the police wanted a fresh crackdown from tech companies on the use of platforms including Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, and Facebook Live.
His warning follows reports that abusive behaviour is on the rise.
Earlier this month, the NSPCC child protection charity said there had been a 31 per cent increase in the number of reported cases of child sexual abuse in the UK in the previous year.
In the first 11 months of 2017, the National Crime Agency received 72,000 referrals about online child sexual abuse imagery, up from 6,000 in 2010, the Guardian reported.
The police chief said the children being targeted were not just those from homes where the parents or the adults in charge were neglectful.
“The victims have included children of very capable and very caring parents. It does not recognise social status. The victims include children of middle-class, educated parents who think they are internet-savvy,” he said.
On the emerging issue of live streaming, Bailey urged tech companies to do more.
“Software providers have a critical role in policing the environment they create… They have a social and moral responsibility to make their platforms safe for children to use.”