NANAIMO — Concerns are being raised by police on Vancouver Island over the trend of internet vigilantism, however a local group vows to carry on with their efforts.
A series of Facebook videos posted by the group Vancouver Island Creep Catchers, which aims to help identify child predators, has caught the attention of the RCMP.
“We're always concerned when people decide to bypass law enforcement and take investigations into their own hands. When that does happen there is a risk that investigations can be jeopardized and key evidence lost,” said Island District RCMP Cpl. Tammy Douglas. “We recommend that the public leave investigations to the police.”
Vancouver Island Creep Catchers has uploaded three or four videos since rebranding from Nanaimo Creep Catchers about six weeks ago, according to the group's Mick Bourgeault. He said that they are widening their search area in hopes of having a presence in all major centres on the island.
Douglas say this type of vigilante investigation creates safety concerns for many people.
“You never know how people are going to react. Individuals who do engage in this type of action can risk their personal safety or the safety of others who could be in the community,” she said.
While often applauded in the court of public opinion, the growing trend of vigilante groups have had their actions backfire. A recent example is the head of the Surrey Creep Catchers chapter who apologized for wrongfully identifying a man the group was pursuing.
Bourgeault says they are fully aware of concerns being presented by the RCMP, including posting videos before police can launch a formal investigation and potentially a legal process.
“We are discussing it. We want make sure that these guys are put away and if us popping the video out the next day is causing it to hold it back, we are trying to figure out a good time frame...it sucks because the court system takes so long for anything," said Bourgeault.
He says there simply aren't enough law enforcement resources to identify and hold child predators accountable.
“They are not all getting caught. If people like us can be out here catching three or four a month, there's hundreds of cases popping up all over Canada.”
Bourgeault says he's heard both sides from the RCMP regarding the work groups like his are doing.
“I have been told that it has to stop. But I've also been told by officers that they respect what we do, that it has to be polished a little bit, but they get where we're coming from.”
He says they are non-violent and want to work closely with the RCMP, noting that all evidence is presented to police.
Oceanside RCMP confirm they are investigating evidence presented by Vancouver Island Creep Catchers. A video shows a man who allegedly was trying to meet a 14-year-old boy at a Parskville motel parking lot on Oct. 19.
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