Online pedophile hunter group 'Creep Catchers' opens Edmonton chapter
Police have called the group an 'unsanctioned, loosely organized initiative'
The video starts in what looks to be a department store.
Two people off camera approach a man in his 50s ordering at a McDonald's outlet inside the store, and confront him about his alleged plans to meet underaged girls.
"These are innocent children, buddy, why are you trying to take the innocence of a child?" a voice says.
The man tries to leave but the two follow, and ask where he parked his car.
"Creep Catchers will find your vehicles. We are detectives," the voice warns.
The video is just the latest of several to come out of Alberta in the last few weeks. The trend was seemingly sparked by the online actions of Dawson Raymond, a Calgary man who gained infamy for filming his confrontations with men he lured online under the guise of a teenage girl.
Chapters have been popping up all over the province, in Calgary, Lloydminster, Medicine Hat and now Edmonton.
The Edmonton chapter appears to have several members, the two most prominent going by the names David Matthews and John Doep - they hide their identities because they fear retaliation.
"Our system is so ass backwards right now, we wait until there is a freaking victim - and they're not even guaranteed to be arrested," said Matthews. "I think what we're doing is the best thing the city has seen in a multitude of years."
Matthews, who has children the same ages as the ones he pretends to be online, said that he does this work because of them. He said he wants no child to be scarred by sexual abuse.
"My children are my life and if I grew old knowing I had a chance to stop it now, a chance to put a dent into the society that are luring our children to make them victims and didn't take it … , " said Matthews, his voice trailing off.
"I could sleep good at night knowing I saved one child."
The group works by creating a profile of a woman over 18 on a dating website. They wait for a person to contact them and then, under the guise of the profile, advise the person they are actually 13 or 14 years old.
They wait until the person propositions sex to the underage girl, then go about trying to meet the person. They film the encounter and post the video online. Other Creep Catchers have referred to this process as "hunting" in online posts.
"The last thing we want to do is confront someone who is not the person," said Matthews. "That would be so terrible, so unprofessional."
"We want to be as professional as we can, we're going to bring all the proof to the table, we're going to bring all the facts and we're going to make sure the public knows, because it is too late once the crime is done."
The Edmonton chapter has released four videos so far, three by Matthews, the last published on Monday.
In it, two unseen people approach a young man walking down a street. After explaining to the man that they were the young girl he thought he was talking to online, they offer to speak to him off camera.
"You're on Creep Catchers right now."
Raymond, and the Creep Catchers as a whole, have faced staunch criticism from police services across the province. They have frequently been referred to as online vigilantes.
On April 7, the Medicine Hat police released an online statement after running into two hometown catchers. They described the online trend as an "unsanctioned, loosely organized initiative" and said that while "most" Creep Catchers activity remains within legal boundaries, "many incidents come precariously close to the threshold of several criminal offences."
They went on to say that the group may be putting themselves at threat of civil defamation suits, possibly breaking identity laws and impeding criminal investigations. They say the trend is "a growing concern throughout Canada and the United States."
Matthews said the group is simply doing what it can to catch pedophiles.
"If people don't like it, it's on them," he said. "If they're waiting for someone to act, that is too long. I don't care what everyone says, I'm not allowing that kid to go through that. If I'm breaking the law and I saved a kid's life, lock me up right now."
A man recently came to the CBC saying that he had been improperly labeled as a pedophile in one of Dawson Raymond's Calgary videos.
"I'm not a pedophile," said the 23-year-old man. "I don't want to be framed as a pedophile, when all I did was try to meet someone who stated they were 18."
Matthew refutes the claims of vigilantism.
"All we're doing is giving straight awareness to the people," he said. "There is no vigilantism; we don't believe in hurting anyone."
The first video Matthews uploaded takes place at a man's house.
The two people behind the camera begin to speak to a man who answers the door. As they are filming, a woman comes up, listens for a while, and eventually puts her hand over the man's mouth.
"Get out of my house," she says. "I have my two-year son here, get the f--k off my property."
The video ends with the two people walking away from the house. It freezes when one Creep Catcher begins to turn around.
There is a smile on her face.