An activist with Creep Catchers, a vigilante website dedicated to rooting out pedophiles across Canada, claims to have caught out a police officer in Surrey, BC.
The website, which now has chapters in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario, as well as BC, works by having activists pose as underage online.
They then lure alleged predators to a public meeting, where their reaction is then filmed and published online, along with messages and photos, for the public to see.
“Every creep we catch is a success,” Brianna Hall, public relations officer with Creep Catchers, told Daily Hive.
“Each and every person who has intentions to meet an underage person for sex we want to confront and expose and show the community who is really living on their street.”
Surrey RCMP investigating
In a statement on Thursday, Surrey RCMP said they are investigating the allegations after being called to a location near Central City Mall at around 10 pm on Wednesday.
“The investigation is active and ongoing and is looking into the actions of all parties,” said the statement. “We are also mindful of allegations that the matter involves a police officer.”
According to the statement, while a number of people have been identified, this remains a fluid investigation and no one is in custody and currently no charges have been laid.
“Given the active and ongoing nature of the investigation, it would not be appropriate at this time to discuss the specific allegations,” said the statement. “However, we can confirm we are taking this seriously.”
Investigators are moving forward to gather all available evidence and determine the next steps, said the statement.
Creep Catchers rapidly growing
Hall says Creep Catchers was launched a year ago in Calgary by her fellow activist Dawson Raymond, to create awareness about the dangers of online predators.
“He started this organization… to make parents, kids, teachers, everyone aware of the predators in our society and how easily they can access our children and loved ones especially with today’s technology,” said Hall.
Hall says Creep Catchers is expanding rapidly. Nevertheless, she acknowledged, theirs is a controversial cause – some people love them, some people hate them.
“But we will continue doing what we do because the amount of emails and messages we get from parents thanking us and showing appreciation outweighs the hate we receive.”
‘Vigilante actions are dangerous’
While Calgary Police told Daily Hive they do not condone or collaborate with the Creep Catchers website, they confirmed they are investigating allegations made by the group.
Nevertheless, said Lindsay Nykoluk, Media Relations Officer, the police in no way advocate a citizen taking action into their own hands and conducting their own investigations.
“A significant amount of training, preparation, and precautions are undertaken when police carry out similar undercover operations,” said Nykoluk.
“Vigilante actions are dangerous for everyone involved as citizens are not trained on how to contain situations if they escalate to violence.”
The issue of evidence
As well, vigilante investigations can actually interfere with police investigations and any attempt at later prosecution.
“If evidence is not collected or submitted to police properly, the suspect might not be charged or convicted,” said Nykoluk.
“Without a charge or conviction, there is no record of the offence or court orders to prevent the suspect from having unsupervised contact with children in the future.”
Therefore, said Nykoluk, the alleged offender also may not get the treatment they need, as they would under a court-mandated treatment program.
No convictions yet
While no Creep Catchers sting operations have led to convictions so far, Hall says they are trying to work with police.
“We want these predators to understand that we are all over,” said Hall.
“If you come to meet an underage person it will be Creep Catchers you are meeting. Stay off the internet and leave our innocent children alone.”
If you have been affected by the issues in this story, Cybertip provides a space for Canadians to:
You can contact Cybertip at cybertip.ca. It is operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.