Abuse allegations made against Jimmy Savile while he was alive could have been linked to show “a pattern of behaviour”, Scotland Yard's commissioner said today.
Bernard Hogan Howe said police and other organisations had not "put together" claims made against the disgraced television presenter.
Members of the public may also have been discouraged from taking action because of Savile's reputation at the time, he said.
The commissioner told reporters: "You might have thought that people would at least have talked about it and intervened.
"It does look as if from time to time people have been concerned, they've made the start to intervene, but probably then they've relied a little bit too much on his reputation and his word that he did nothing.
"If you accept all the public accounts of the activity then it's possibly spanned 50 years which is a huge amount of time.
"First of all within an organisation that's got everybody's respect, but probably it appears that people haven't intervened when they've had suspicions.
"Then of course other organisations including the police have had individual allegations that have not been put together to actually show that this person may well have shown a pattern of behaviour that's been pretty awful."
Four police forces were contacted by seven potential victims while Savile was alive. Surrey, Sussex and Jersey all found that there was not enough evidence to proceed.
Two potential victims came forward to Scotland Yard - one of whom claimed she had been abused in the 1970s but did not want to pursue a criminal investigation.
Officers are trying to find the original file relating to a second claim made by a woman who claimed she was assaulted in the 1980s, possibly in a caravan outside BBC premises in west London.
Mr Hogan Howe said a lot of what happened was before changes were made to the sharing of police data following the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
A team of 30 officers are currently investigating three categories of allegations: those involving Savile, those involving Savile and others, and those involving others.
The commissioner said that most of the "others" are involved in the entertainment industry.
So far around 300 potential victims have been identified, with Met officers following more than 400 lines of inquiry.
Today a probe has been launched into the BBC's "culture and practices" during Savile's career.
Led by former Court of Appeal judge Dame Janet Smith, the probe will also determine whether the broadcaster's child protection and whistle-blowing policies are up to scratch.
The inquiry comes a year to the day since Savile died aged 84 at his home in Leeds and a day after former pop star Gary Glitter was arrested and bailed until mid-December by police investigating the Savile scandal.
Glitter's arrest came as the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, said he was dedicated to finding out the truth about the scandal that has engulfed the corporation, vowing there would be "no covering our backs".
He also apologised "unreservedly" to abused women who spoke to a BBC Newsnight investigation into the abuse which was axed last year.
An inquiry into possible BBC management failures over the canning of the Newsnight programme has already begun under former head of Sky News Nick Pollard.
Dame Janet, who was appointed to the appeal court in 2002, led the Shipman Inquiry into the activities of serial killer GP Dr Harold Shipman which reported in 2005.
Mr Hogan Howe said it would be "a bit dangerous" to reveal exact numbers of living suspects in the case.
A small number of allegations not linked to Savile have been made in light of the publicity of the abuse scandal, most of which are linked to the entertainment industry.