'It's for the children': Creep Catchers phenomenon spreads to Surrey
Published Tuesday, July 26, 2016 5:20PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 26, 2016 6:30PM PDT
The “Creep Catchers” phenomenon, in which vigilantes pose as children online to lure sex predators, has spread to Metro Vancouver – but legal experts are cautioning about the risks involved.
The Surrey Creep Catchers group posts ads online to lure men after underage children, documenting all text messages and photos exchanged with the alleged predators. The group then arranges to meet up with the men, who believe they've been communicating with underage girls or boys, then films the confrontation when they meet.
A video recently posted to the Creep Catchers website captures it all: a man who the group says thought he was meeting a 14-year-old girl at a Surrey McDonald's being confronted by the vigilantes.
President Ryan Laforge says he was inspired by groups across Canada – such as in Penticton, Medicine Hat, Thunder Bay and Edmonton – to create the first Creep Catcher chapter in Metro Vancouver.
“I did some Googling, and I found these guys,” LaForge said. “I reached out to them, and I said, ‘Hey, I want in.’”
The group has posted two videos online so far, naming and shaming the men they record.
“On any social media app, there are creeps,” LaForge said. “It’s scary what’s out there.”
CTV News also showed the videos to a defamation lawyer, who was concerned about the ethics behind Creep Catchers.
“It's unethical, possibly, if as a result of that being posted, somebody faces violence,” said David Sutherland. “There’s no question that the vigilantes are opening themselves up to being sued.”
Police say sex-related crimes require complex investigations. Surrey RCMP declined to speak to CTV News, saying they don’t want to publicize vigilantism.
Laforge says he knows the risk, but children’s safety is more important than his own.
“You know what, anything in life is dangerous,” he said, noting that police have warned him what he’s doing is dangerous. “We’re in this for the children.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Nafeesa Karim