here is no doubt that the world is a better place if those who prey on children are taken off the streets, or at least offered help to try and stop their illness. But how far it is acceptable to go to catch these people? This is a question that is gaining traction all over the world thanks to a rise in online vigilantism, with one good example of this being the so-called Creep Catchers in Canada.
On the one hand, these groups are doing a service to the communities in which they live. On the other, their methods are often dubious at best.
And in some cases, the “hunters” themselves are not exactly the kind of upstanding citizens that best represent the society they claim to be protecting.
Ends justifying the means?
In a story that gained a lot of attention in Canada, a 60-year old man is harassed, bullied, and belittled on camera for over 30 minutes by members of the Creep Catchers.
This case is kind of unusual in that what most often happens is that the suspected pedophile runs away when they discover a group of adults instead of an under-age boy or girl waiting for them.
In the case of the man in the video in Canada, he was expecting to meet up with a 12-year-old boy.
This man, Don Putt, is a repeat sex offender who was ultimately given a six-month jail sentence, but the behavior of the Creep Catchers was unpleasant to watch and pretty much undermines the good work they did in exposing Putt.
The Creep Catcher Scattershot Approach
It is not only the behavior of the Creep Catchers when they catch a predator that is worrying. The techniques they use are also more than questionable.
The same is true of groups like these all over the world. The method to catch the predators is entrapment, and there have also been many instances of people being incorrectly identified as pedophiles.
It is also not uncommon for many of the potential predators to be suffering from learning difficulties and be mentally challenged individuals who are coerced by the hunters into doing things they would probably not normally do.
In the famous Canadian video, the untoward behavior of the Creep Catchers never goes beyond the verbal. In other instances, this is not always the case and the hunters have been known to resort to physical violence to detain their kills.
A legal quandary
The methods employed by these groups are not grounded in any legal framework and this in itself could undo all of their efforts in tracking down the real bad guys who do need taking off the street.
“THERE ARE A BUNCH OF LAWS BEING BROKEN. THIS IS ENTERTAINMENT-DRIVEN LAW ENFORCEMENT BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE LAW IS. THEY HAVE NO EDUCATION IN EVEN A RELATED FIELD LIKE PSYCHOLOGY. THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT A PEDOPHILE IS.”Craig Jones, lawyer and law professor at Thompson Rivers University.
The entertainment element of what drives the vigilantes is perhaps one of the most worrying aspects of this kind of action.
Meetings with those suspected of being pedophiles are live-streamed. And there is no doubt that some of these vigilantes are taking a real pride in their audience numbers and the renown carrying out these tasks brings them from their audiences.
When groups like these are indeed helping to take terrible people off the street, it is hard to criticize them.
But what is also clear is that these kinds of vigilante crusades need to be more closely coordinated with the authorities to stop some of the very ugly sides of this practice from being given free rein.