Canada

Creep Catcher vigilantes accused of threatening women who question group's tactics

Two women say they've been threatened by members of the Creep Catcher vigilante group because they spoke out about the network of self-styled pedophile-hunters.

Former member says Red Deer chapter president wanted to use girl, 14, as bait to lure alleged predator

Two women have told CBC News they've been threatened and harassed for speaking out against Creep Catcher, a vigilante group of self-styled pedophile-hunters who use the catchphrase 'Yer done bud.' (Facebook)

A Red Deer, Alta., woman says she fears for her safety since going to police with allegations that a member of the Creep Catcher vigilante group planned to use a 14-year-old girl to bait and trap a suspected predator. 

"I'm scared shitless right now," the woman, who asked that her name not be published, told CBC News. "And because Creep Catchers is so supported, I've been afraid to leave my house."

She is one of two women who told CBC News they have been threatened by the self-styled pedophile-hunters after speaking out against their tactics. The vigilantes deny the allegations. 

Creep Catcher is a national network of vigilantes who pose as minors online in order to bait would-be sex offenders, then confront them on camera and share the videos online.

The group, which has begun to splinter into separate organizations, has recently come under fire for wrongly identifying a Mountie and a Surrey, B.C., man as sexual predators and posting a video of a mentally ill woman who later took her own life.

'I thought it was all about the kids'

"I'm all for child justice and stuff like that, and that's why I joined, because I thought it was all about the kids," the Red Deer woman said.

Her opinion changed in July when the group found out that a man they call Ian, an alleged predator from a previous Creep Catcher video, messaged a 14-year-old girl on Facebook and asked her if she was single.

The woman insisted they call police, but Red Deer chapter president Tahner Chinksi pointed out that the girl's profile said she was in her 20s. "So far, that's not illegal," Chinksi said in a text message to the woman. "If we play him along, we should get him major charges."

These text messages were exchanged between Red Deer Creep Catcher president Tahner Chinksi and a now-former member of the vigilante group. Chinksi's messages appear in green. (CBC)

"You CANNOT have a child subjected to a predator," the woman wrote. "That is wrong."

When she threatened to call police, Chinksi replied: "Do whatever you gotta do, I guess. I'm not talking to cops until I get evidence and can actually get him charged, and she's already talking to him."

The next day, Chinksi asked her to leave the group.

The Red Deer woman said she called police immediately and again a few days later when the girl was reported missing. 

A Red Deer woman, whose text messages appear in beige, says she was kicked out of the Creep Catcher group for speaking her mind. (CBC)

The girl was found safe, and there is no evidence her disappearance is connected to Creep Catcher. She did not respond to a request for comment.

Red Deer RCMP confirm they received a report from the woman relating to a missing girl but say they have no ongoing investigations concerning the complainant, the girl or the vigilantes.

"This is not work that should be done by amateurs," Cpl. Karyn Kay said. "They don't have the skills or training, they may damage ongoing police investigations, and they certainly don't follow privacy legislation or due process."

Chinksi denies he ever intended to put the girl in contact with the alleged predator. He said he only planned to ask the teen if the man knew her real age and to confront him if she said yes. 

He messaged the girl but didn't hear back and did not pursue it further, he said. 

Asked what he meant when he wrote that he wouldn't go to police until "she's already talking to him," he said was referring to the friend who brought the matter to his attention.

Chinksi blamed the allegations on a "disgruntled ex-volunteer" who "is just trying to make creep catchers look bad."

'Stop before you bury yourself'

Since she went to police and voiced her concerns on Facebook, the Red Deer woman said she's received threatening voice messages from the group's Calgary-based founder, Dawson Raymond. 

All I'm saying is if you badmouth one of our boys, well, I'm pretty sure you've seen what happens to people who do these kind of things.- Dawson Raymond, Creep Catcher founder 

In one message, obtained by CBC News, Raymond says: "Cut the shit, alright? Stop badmouthing Tahner. Stop the shit or you know what's gonna happen. You're not gonna like it, OK? I'm not making any threats at all. All I'm saying is if you badmouth one of our boys, well, I'm pretty sure you've seen what happens to people who do these kind of things."

In another, he says: "Keep your nose outta shit.... I'm telling you right now, stop before you bury yourself."

Raymond, who also goes by the name Johnathan Janson, refused to comment.

"I'm not feeding into this hate anymore. I don't care if it's news reporters, I don't care if it's public, I don't care who it is," he said. "It's ridiculous."

Creep Catcher founder Dawson Raymond, left, and Edmonton chapter president John Doep, right, have been accused of threatening two women who spoke out against the vigilante organization. (Facebook)

'I know where you live'

The former Red Deer Creep Catcher is not the only woman who has faced backlash from the group for speaking out.

Mira, a former member of the Edmonton chapter who asked that her real name not be used, says she received what she perceives as a threat from chapter president John Doep after she and her partner spoke out about a video of a woman with a history of depression and homelessness who later took her own life.

This woman, who asked that her name not be published, says she fears for her safety since going to police with allegations about the Creep Catcher vigilante group. 0:39

The message from Doep, who also goes by the name O Nigel Woolcox, reads: "Hope you guys get a visit from my friend tonight :)  (Good thing I know where you live hey)."

A former Creep Catcher says she received this message from Edmonton chapter president John Doep. Doep says it's been taken out of context and was not meant as a threat. (CBC)

"I felt that that was inappropriate," Mira said. "I'm a woman with a kid, and I'm alone."

Doep said the message was not a threat and is being taken "out of context." He refused to elaborate and asked that CBC News refrain from contacting him further. 

Meanwhile, the Red Deer woman says she's locked her social media accounts and changed her name on Facebook to protect herself.

"I'm terrified of Creep Catchers," she said. "I'm terrified of their supporters."

About the Author

Sheena Goodyear is the digital producer for CBC Radio's As It Happens. Originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, her work has appeared on CBC News, Sun Media, the Globe & Mail, the Toronto Star, VICE News and more.