Police warn against 'Creep Catchers' sting attempts
Published Friday, February 19, 2016 8:43AM EST
Police in British Columbia are growing frustrated with online vigilantes who are bent on catching men attempting to lure young girls into sexual encounters.
Law enforcement authorities say these would-be heroes are playing a dangerous game and potentially compromising police work.
Predator-baiting schemes have become increasingly popular in recent years, with many vigilantes drawing inspiration from the reality TV show "To Catch a Predator" or the online movement known as “Creep Catchers.”
One would-be vigilante in Nanaimo, B.C. recently posted a video of a confrontation he had with a man he said was trying to arrange an encounter with a 13-year-old girl.
The man set up an amateur sting operation to catch the alleged predator in which he posed as a young girl in an online chatroom and then arranged a meeting at a local mall.
The video shows the vigilante confronting the man and then revealing his real identity.
"You’re here to pick up a 13-year-old girl? You're here to pick up Abby, right?" the vigilante asks.
“Why don't you tell me some of the things you were going to do to me? I'm Abby. You've been talking to the whole time, bud… What have you got to say for yourself?"
When the man tries to respond he’s sorry, the vigilante responds: "Sorry for what? You know you're going to jail, right?”
As the man tries to walk away, the vigilante yells out, “This guy's trying to meet 13-year-old girls on the Internet right now! This guy's trying to pick up 13-year-olds on the Internet!”
Nanaimo RCMP told CTV News they are conducting an investigation but they say the vigilante never filed a formal report to police. CTV News tried to reach out to the man who uploaded the video, but he did not return requests for comment.
Police say they are not happy the anonymous videographer tried to take the law into his own hands, saying it is simply dangerous.
"It's not a good idea to have people engaging in this sort of behaviour on their own. There's great risks to it, whether the person you're going to meet is an armed or dangerous person we don't know,” Cpl. Jon Stuart of the Nanaimo RCMP youth unit told CTV Vancouver.
Besides being dangerous, police say these confrontations could seriously hinder their own investigations.
"All jurisdictions across the United States and Canada have trained officers that are on the internet and trying to interact with these people and trying to find out who they are,” says Cpl. Stuart.
"They may either backlog an investigation or stop an investigation altogether unknowingly because the person would change their behaviour or do something different."
Defence lawyer Paul Pearson warns attempts at public shaming could also lead to legal trouble for the vigilantes.
“You might get sued if in fact you've got the wrong person, or you're making an allegation which is not actually true,” he says.
He warns that if a court found that the vigilante had committed slander or libel or wrongfully defamed someone’s character without clear evidence, that could result in damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With a report from CTV’s Vancouver’s Scott Cunningham and Penny Daflos