Police upset with Nanaimo vigilante's 'To Catch a Predator'-style sting
Published Thursday, February 18, 2016 5:02PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, February 18, 2016 6:26PM PST
A vigilante in Nanaimo is sharing video of a confrontation with a man who he claims tried to lure an underage girl into sex – but law officials aren’t thrilled with his brand of justice.
The man, who goes by “Robi Lawfull” on Facebook, said he posed as a 13-year-old girl online and arranged to meet with a man for sex as part of an online movement called “Creep Catchers.”
In apparent screenshots of their text conversations, the vigilante, pretending to be a young girl named Abby, tells the man “I lied on my profile lol I’m only 13. Please don’t hate me.”
“It’s ok I don’t hate you…You are soo pretty abby,” the man replies.
The man tells “Abby” he wants to have sex with her and they plan to meet at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Mall.
The vigilante posted the video of their alleged encounter to Facebook.
In it, he approaches the man, saying he has proof he tried to lure a minor into having sex, and tells the man he will go to jail for his actions.
“You here to pick up a 13-year-old girl? You’re here to pick up Abby right?” the man is heard saying from behind the camera. “I’m Abby. I’ve been talking to you the whole time, bud. What do you have to say for yourself?”
The man appears to mumble “sorry,” and when the vigilante starts publicly shaming him – telling bystanders he was trying to meet underage girls on the internet – the man takes off.
Nanaimo RCMP told CTV News no formal report has been filed in the incident, but they are conducting an investigation anyways.
They also said the vigilante shooting the video is doing more harm than good – and are asking both of the men involved to come forward.
“I would hope that if anybody knew of a criminal offense that occurred or was occurring that they would contact the police,” said Nanaimo RCMP Cpl. Jon Stuart. “It’s not a good idea for people to be engaging in this sort of behaviour on their own. There’s great risks to it.”
Stuart said there’s another potential problem with “Creep Catchers” – they could seriously impact existing investigations.
“All jurisdictions across the United States and Canada have trained officers that are on the internet and are trying to interact with these people and find out who they are,” he said. “If a citizen is trying to do the right thing and interacts with this person, they may either backlog an investigation or stop an investigation altogether unknowingly, because the person would change their behaviour or do something different.”
Stuart said it’s not illegal to have conversations online with young people, but it becomes a criminal offence as soon as somebody says they’d like to have sexual interaction with a minor.
A lawyer said the vigilante could actually be opening himself up to legal action by filming and posting the sting operation video – because he is publicly accusing someone of a crime he may not have committed.
“If it was found to be slanderous or libelous, if it was defamation of character, that person could recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages,” said defence lawyer Paul Pearson. “By this type of activity occurring, its taking an end run around our system of laws and our courts and effectively, our criminal justice system.”
CTV reached out to the man who filmed the encounter, but he did not return requests for comment.
His video is one of several that have popped up online as part of the “Creep Catchers” movement, in which adult men pose as young girls to draw out pedophiles in “To Catch a Predator”-style videos.
Calgary man Dawson Raymond has generated headlines for his website, creepcatcher.ca, where he has posted around two-dozen videos of encounters with alleged child predators.
Law authorities in Calgary have chided Raymond for his videos, saying they could hinder progress on open investigations into child luring.