Police are warning a vigilante group to stop ambushing alleged pedophiles and shaming them online, after an attempted sting went awry in Surrey, B.C.
A local chapter of the self-proclaimed "Creep Catchers" was recording video of someone they claimed had arranged to meet a purported teenager for underage sex, when the suspect panicked and crashed his car into a parked truck. The driver also narrowly missed injuring the vigilante, who was leaning into the car's open passenger door when it drove off. The vigilante had been posing as a 14-year-old boy, and was recording the incident on his cellphone.
The suspect became spooked when he noticed the vigilante recording their encounter on a phone, as shown in a clip posted online.
"He got scared and tried to take off, hit a parked truck, (and) tried to run me over," said Patrick LaForge, one of the “Creep Catchers” involved in the sting.
Surrey RCMP condemned the incident in a statement, pointing out that vigilantism does not help them bring potential sexual predators to justice.
"Vigilantism is a risk to the safety of all those involved including victims or potential victims, the alleged suspects, and/or the safety of those persons intent on broadcasting the suspected crime," Cpl. Scotty Schumann said in the statement.
Police are describing the case as a "motor vehicle incident," and have not indicated whether any charges will be laid.
The Creep Catcher movement has spread to several cities in Canada over the last year, with most of the takedowns occurring in Western Canadian cities. Vigilantes with the group pose as underage teens online, in order to lure potential pedophiles into meeting up in person. The Creep Catchers then record their in-person meetup with the suspect and post the video online, along with the online chat history of their "flirtations," in order to publicly shame the individual.
Police in Edmonton issued a warning to the city's Creep Catchers last April, saying that their activities are dangerous and potentially disruptive to the efforts of police. Vancouver police also slammed the group's activities in February.
Creep Catchers founder Dawson Raymond says the group's mission is to keep children safe. "Men and women, young and old, rich and poor; these creeps seem like everyday people but they just ACTED on a dark secret within them," he writes on the website. "Let's hope I can scare a little sense into them so next time they want to meet a 13-year-old for sex, they'll REMEMBER MY FACE and think twice!"
The vigilante movement uses tactics similar to those employed by the long-running U.S. television program, "To Catch a Predator," in which host Chris Hansen would ambush men seeking to meet up with young girls for sex.
With files from CTV Vancouver