1st creep catcher case reported in Manitoba, RCMP say
Group claims to pose as minors and catch would-be sexual offenders
RCMP said they are investigating the first "creep catcher" case reported in Manitoba after a video of a confrontation with a man in Carberry was posted online last week.
A group, which claims to be non-violent, posted a Facebook Live video where an unidentified member of the group confronts a man in a truck, claiming he has come to meet for sex with a minor.
CBC News is not sharing the website the video was posted on or the name of the person in the truck.
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In the video, an unidentified person approaches a truck in a parking lot in Carberry — a town about 45 kilometres east of Brandon — and asks if the driver is there to have sex with a 15-year-old girl.
The man in the truck denies the accusation but the man filming claims he has pictures and messages, although he offers no proof.
The man in the truck focuses on his phone while the man filming continues to talk, occasionally reading comments from the Facebook live stream. The man's name is used in the video, which also claims he is from Brandon and shows the licence plate of his truck multiple times.
Creep catcher groups have been popping up across the country, confronting alleged sexual offenders and posting videos online. The vigilantism has been controversial, with individuals being wrongly identified, including a Mountie, and a posting of a video featuring a mentally ill woman who later took her own life.
Police across the country have begged similar groups to leave tracking and catching pedophiles to the professionals.
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The group that posted the 11-minute video of the Manitoba man is based in Saskatchewan and claims to be unaffiliated with the other groups.
The live stream of the confrontation spurred comments from people watching that ranged from congratulating the group to calls for violence, like "boot his face in."
A few people commented that the group's intentions might be in the right place, but putting the video online was wrong.
"Seems to me that by putting this video on FB, dude just lost his job and all support he might have and will have to move, then be lost," a commenter wrote. "Good this group is non-violent, good they're trying to help and make change, just not sure this is the right thing to do with this video info."
Chase Karnes, the founder of the Saskatchewan-based group, said he and the other members are non-violent, but sometimes situations can get out of hand through the actions of non-members on the scene or watching online. He said the man confronted in Manitoba was actually assaulted by a bystander.
"We can't control someone else. We can't tell someone else they can't beat someone up if they want to, we just try and stop them in some way," Karnes said.
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Karnes said his group's goal is to try to catch people before they are busted by the police in order to connect them with help.
That means members go on dating websites and pose as minors, Karnes said.
"They start a communication with you of some sort or start a conversation with you. And you just kind of let them do the talking while you sit back," he said.
After a series of messages with a person, they arrange to meet in a public place. That encounter is filmed and put online.
Karnes said they aren't acting as vigilantes because they aren't taking the law into their own hands, despite the lack of due process or the presumption of innocence in the videos and online accusations, and questions around the legalities of entrapment.
"The Canadian laws aren't very strict. The cops don't do much considering they catch a guy once every six months and I can catch five in an hour," he said.
RCMP said the video was reported to them shortly after it was put online and they are investigating. RCMP Sgt. Paul Manaigre said the video shows a very short piece of what happened and "a couple aspects are being investigated," including whether luring occurred.
"Everything's going to be looked at, to look at what occurred and what followup is necessary," he said.
It is the first "creep catcher" case reported in the province and Manaigre said it's not a trend police want to see more of.
"We don't condone vigilantism ... we recommend to leave the investigations to us," he said.
Karnes said the person who took the video has left the group already but it is still hoping to expand into Manitoba.