The Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire has said officers should form closer relationships with the vigilante groups which aim to trap paedophiles online.
Paddy Tipping said it was a controversial issue, but told a Police and Crime Panel meeting on Monday that if vigilantes could help bring people to justice then the force should embrace it.
There have so far been 46 arrests on the back of information passed to police from 15 paedophile-hunting groups. Of these, there have been 27 successful convictions, ranging from non-custodial sentences to four-year jail terms.
Vigilantes often pose as young children and target people they believe to be sexually interested in young people, passing the information on to police.
The national policing policy has been for forces to keep the online vigilantes at arm's length.
But Mr Tipping called for Nottinghamshire Police to build its relationships with paedophile hunters in the area.
He said: “The national policy of the police is not to co-operate with groups like this, but we take a different view.
“It seems to me that if people are giving us evidence, and they do, then we should act upon it, and we should try to form a better relationship with groups like this. That is happening here in Nottinghamshire, but it’s not universal.”
The top police officer for the county, Chief Constable Craig Guildford, said: “The National Police Chiefs Council position is very much that these groups, on occasion, have not covered themselves in glory, but I take a slightly different view in terms of working with them.
“If you’re going to give me information about how I can keep a kid safe then I will act on that regardless. Prosecution is a bit of a secondary benefit, the prime aim is to keep kids safe.
“We’ve had around 15 national groups that have rung us up and given us information and our advice to them is that ‘if you’re doing this kind of thing, we cannot be seen to be directing or controlling you in any way, but try to do any kind of confrontation in a public space and not in a private dwelling, but also ring us up straight away on 999 which they tend to do.
“We have to take the information, keep taking the information, but we have to be remind these people of their responsibilities under the law.”