YouTube Pedophile Hunters
By now you may have heard of so called, “pedophile hunters”. Essentially, they befriend an individual on-line through chat groups and mobile dating apps while posing as an underage child. They correspond with the alleged pedophile. Eventually, they arrange a meet up. When the alleged pedophile shows up, he is confronted and publicly berated by the hunters who videotape the entire ordeal through their cell phones. The footage along with the chat logs, pictures and personal information is then uploaded to Youtube and other social media sites.
Both law enforcement and criminal lawyers have voiced their concerns about the dangers of such vigilantism. Not only is it unsafe, but it violates the presumption of innocence, evidence, privacy issues and due process. Rather than assist, this type of vigilantism may be helping to drive these individuals even further underground and causing them to be even more guarded.
However, the general public seems to applaud the work of the hunters. For them they see the legal system as being ineffective. Whereas, the hunters name and shame tactics are instant.
What’s very concerning is that many of the videos depict familiar locations and the alleged perpetrators are just your average Joe, they could be your neighbour, co-worker or friend. In the case of Justin Payne from Oakville his exchanges took place at Shoppers World in Brampton, Oakville Place, Hamilton Mall and Victoria Park subway station.
In almost every video the men are approached and publicly exposed, they are advised the process is non-violent and given an opportunity to explain themselves. The excuses are plentiful and rarely convincing. On the lure of underage sex, some men have shown up with condoms and alcohol. The men who attempt to deny, are confronted by the hunter with their chat logs and pictures that were exchanged.
But here’s what’s interesting, the perpetrators are always terrified at the thought of being exposed or the police being called. Some try to run away, others attempt to justify their actions. Some explain they were unaware and others mention they had no intent for anything nefarious. But reviewing the chat logs shows a very different and disturbing side of the story.
However, there are also two other things to consider. First, are these hunters engaging in this activity out of the goodness of their heart? Is this for the greater good of humanity? Or are they simply trying to attain social media stardom through likes, shares and audience views.
While I have no issue with the first, in that people can try to monetize on Youtube as long as they are being legitimate. The second more pressing concern is inherently obvious when watching the confrontations. It seems, as though the hunters while swearing, berating, yelling and chasing the perpetrators are almost getting their rocks on. It seems they are enjoying and almost relishing the events. It also seems as though the hunters take a hostile approach when the alleged perpetrator is unable to converse in English. However, some of the alleged perpetrators on being discovered also fake being able to understand English.
None of the hunters receive a salary for their efforts. It’s all volunteer.
British Columbia based Creep Catchers’ videos led to the confrontation and eventual arrest of an RCMP officer. In another video not only was the alleged pedophile arrested but also a member of the Creep Catchers group. Possibly for assault. Another Creep Catcher operation led to the arrest of a BC man who ended up serving jail time. In another incident a confrontation by Creep Catchers may have led to the suicide of the alleged perpetrator. Prompting Christie Blatchford of the National Post to comment that the hunters are just as creepy as their prey. There are even defamation suits launched against Creep Catchers. The National, recently reported an incident involving a developmentally delayed man caught in a Creep Catcher sting. Prompting local government officials to comment on the inappropriateness of Creep Catchers. In the situation of Justin Payne he uploaded to Youtube his conversation with a local police officer advising him to stop. In some situations the hunters have even come across repeat offenders.
While I certainly do not support their work and it does not seem the hunters are going away anytime soon. They should at minimum exercise discretion, caution, restraint, good will and respect for the rule of law. If they truly care about helping children their approach when confronting can be less hostile. If their goal is to name and shame, they should not be belligerent. It seems that some of their fans are also expressing the same sentiment. While the actions of the alleged pedophiles are abhorrent it does not justify the hunters reaction. The hunters should not, as depicted in the videos be chasing vehicles down the street. Nor should they be pouncing on the vehicles hood of an alleged perpetrator as they try to escape. Hunters should not under any circumstances attempt to stop an individual from escaping. Nor should they ever come into any physical contact with the other party. Hunters should be educated on how to diffuse situations versus making them worse. They should obtain basic safety training such as, First Aid. They should ensure their nighttime antics don't affect their day jobs and that they have their employers blessing. Hunters must be aware that if the alleged perpetrator harms himself or another even inadvertently that the hunter could be liable. For example, in a Brampton confrontation the alleged perpetrator runs out into a busy intersection and begins to stop random vehicles and ask for help. In one of the stops, he even attempts to jump into the vehicle as that vehicle speeds off, he approaches another, screaming in his native tongue that the, "white people will kill me" in reference to Payne.
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