During the 1980s sexual abuse was defined as a serious problem with public concern being amplified by both extensive media coverage and a series of high profile public enquiries into bungled child abuse investigations involving the police, social services and other agencies. Police Forces responded by setting up specialist Child Abuse Units dedicated to child protection through multi‐agency working. To date these specialist teams have focused their attention on child victims and improving inter‐agency decision making and ‘rescuing’ children from abusive situations. However, with workloads increasing and ever more complex ‘organised’ cases coming to light these teams face genuine role strains in that they are ill equipped to undertake detective work, to investigate large scale cases and to monitor, track and, where appropriate, invoke the prosecution of dangerous sex offenders. Intelligence about paedophiles remains rudimentary in the UK and thus many perpetrators easily regain access to children. Through file analysis, sustained observation and the interviewing of Unit staff in 8 police force areas, the authors outline an agenda for further professionalising the policing of child sexual abuse and, by improving perpetrator detection, better protecting children.