Videos of civilians targeting alleged online predators prompt police warning
WOODSTOCK, ONT. -- Police in Woodstock, Ont. are warning people not to take the law into their own hands when it comes to catching sexual predators.
This comes after videos surfaced on YouTube this week appearing to show a citizen-led sting operation to catch men who show up - allegedly to meet teen boys for sexual encounters.
The videos appear to show graphic conversations on the dating app Grindr about meeting for sex.
They appear to be between a 15-year-old boy and adult males.
“There he is, the elusive North American predator in his natural habitat…Wal-Mart,” can be heard from the camera operator.
In two separate cases this past weekend meetings are set up at the Wal-Mart in Woodstock, Ont. between the parties.
But no teenaged boy shows up. In fact, it's a grown man who apparently played the role of a boy online, to lure the men in.
The person behind the camera says, “Want to call the police? Didn't think so. You're here to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex.”
Woodstock police says it's conducting an indecent acts investigation into the videos.
In a news release police say they do not condone any kind of vigilante justice, which could put people in danger and possibly compromise ongoing investigations.
Woodstock police has members within the Criminal Investigations Branch trained for specialized investigations into these types of e-crimes involving children.
Passersby shown the video were all disturbed by the content.
“Disgusting” says Norm Cobb. “I don't know whether I'm for it or against it but what I see from what he's doing there...I don't know...He's taking chances, from a legal standpoint, but also his own safety. What if somebody retaliated against him on the spot? So, wow.”
Johanne Grey says, “To me it's a mental illness…Thankfully someone is brave enough to intercept so good luck to the young man who's doing so.”
Alan Mactanda was also impressed with the operation.
“The fact that he's meeting in a public spot and he's got a camera...suffice to say it's safer than if he were just meeting someone in the back of an alley or something like that. So he's got a lot of evidence already via text and he's got the camera so, I think this is phenomenal.”
The video also appears to show the would-be vigilante following the men out of the store, passing security personnel on the way, and ending up in the parking lot.
The videotaped conversation continues:
“It’s a shameful thing to be a pedophile”
“But I’m not…”
“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”
A number of threats are made by the camera operator, but their identity is not revealed.