British Columbia

'A real danger and darkness' surrounds Creep Catchers, professor says

Sociology professor Chris Schneider says vigilantes like Creep Catchers create more work for police.

Sociology professor says group's work undermines the justice system

Ryan Laforge, president of Surrey Creep Catchers, sees himself as a protector and vows to keep hunting pedophiles. (Ryan Laforge/Creep Catchers/Facebook)

Sociology professor Chris Schneider says people should not be so quick to applaud the efforts of a vigilante pedophile-hunting group in Surrey called 'Creep Catchers'.

Schneider — who recently completed research on policing and social media at Brandon University in Manitoba — says the group's efforts undermine the justice system.

"There's no due process, so people can go after these individuals and their family members, and then we see retaliation ... there's a real danger and a darkness here. It has no end."

Last week, the Creep Catchers posted video claiming to have caught an individual in a sting.

They claim the individual — an RCMP officer — showed up for a meeting with one of the group's decoys who was posing as a 14-year-old girl.

Later on, RCMP arrested the individual — who has since been released from custody. Creep Catchers then handed over the online evidence they had collected to investigators.

A risky endeavour

Schneider said these vigilantes don't have the same skills as police officers in investigating criminal activity. 

They can compromise evidence and put themselves in serious danger, he explained.

Sociology professor Chris Schneider's new book 'Policing and Social Media' looks at the how various Canadian police agencies use and control social media. (Dean Palmer/Wilfred Laurier University)

For example, he points out when vigilante groups post images and video online, it actually creates more work for police as officers must determine if the evidence has been tainted.

He says justice can be served faster if such evidence is taken directly to the police.

This would also cut down on the public doling out their own punishment without due process, he added, and reduce the risk of innocent parties being falsely accused.

Police well-resourced

Despite a perception the public needs to step in, Schneider said police do have the resources to tackle these investigations.

"The police have incorporated much of the logic of social media ... They are trained and there are officers who are working on these exact issues," he said.

Schneider said the public also overestimates the presence of online sex offenders.

He said many vigilante groups emerged because of incorrect reporting that inflated the number of sex offenders online in the early 2000's.

"Are there sex offenders and perpetrators online? Absolutely. Are they online as much as the public thinks they are? No. The data just doesn't support that."

Surrey RCMP have issued several warnings to the public to stop trying to catch child predators on their own, but Creep Catchers says they will continue their work.

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Sociology professor Chris Schneider on Surrey's vigilante group Creep Catchers