SNAPCHAT is risking being “complicit” in crimes committed on the platform, Essex’s Chief Constable has warned.

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, lead for digital intelligence and investigation at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, warned that the social media company was putting profits before protecting children.

He called for all technology firms to “take more responsibility” when it came to safeguarding young people.

He raised particular concerns over Snapchat, a photograph-sharing app which is increasingly popular among children and teenagers.

Mr Kavanagh told the Telegraph: “Because parents and grandparents have started taking to Facebook, youngsters don’t want to be friends and share images with [them]. They want to be daft and experience a bit of freedom.”

Snapchat allows its users to send each other messages or images which are deleted after being opened.

Although it has a minimum users’ age of 13, youngsters can sign up with a false date of birth to get around the safeguard.

Mr Kavanagh said the app’s popularity had led to paedophiles “trying to use these forums for their own sexual gratification by preying on children”.

He added: “Snapchat are not passive players in this. They have got to balance their demand to make money with keeping young people safe and not providing a platform for crime.”

He added that criminal groups such as gangs, drug dealers and firearm dealers were also using Snapchat.

A spokesman for Snapchat said: “We value the strong co-operation that we have with our law enforcement partners in the UK. We continue to improve the ease with which Snapchatters can report their concerns as well as strengthen our support for law enforcement.”