SQ arrest 1 and search for 3 more accused of mischief in connection with vigilante justice

Quebec's provincial police has arrested a 27-year-old man, who is facing charges for mischief and harassment in connection with a group of vigilantes meeting up with people they presume are sexual predators.

Provincial police arrested a 27-year-old for confronting people he accused of being sexual predators

The SQ are looking for two men and a woman believed to have committed mischief and harassment while confronting people they contacted online to set up fake sexual encounters. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's provincial police have arrested a 27-year-old man who is facing charges for mischief and harassment in connection with a group of vigilantes meeting up with people they presume are sexual predators. 

The Sûreté du Québec's child exploitation investigation unit arrested William Drapeau in Sherbrooke on Thursday after he had been communicating with people and setting up fake sexual encounters. 

He allegedly confronted them, intimidated and threatened them. A man's car was also damaged, leading to the mischief charge, police said. 
Quebec's provincial police arrested William Drapeau, 27. He is facing charges of mischief and uttering threats. (Sûreté du Québec)

It's a tactic the SQ is calling "web sheriffs" and they're now looking for three more—two men and one woman—who may have acted alongside Drapeau. 

"We think these people acted together to try and communicate with supposed sexual predators and that they also may have been together when the offenses were committed," SQ Sgt. Ingrid Asselin told CBC News.

Asselin said material seized at Drapeau's house "allowed us to obtain images of other people who resorted to that kind of offense."

SQ could arrest others

Other arrests could be made in the case once the SQ finds and meets with the three other suspects, she said.

"The investigation isn't over."

The provincial police force is warning people against using that type of vigilante justice because the information civilians gather can rarely be used in court or to lay charges. 

It can even lead to "them finding themselves with material that suggests sexual activity with someone under 18," Asselin explained. 

"Even if the goal ... is to help police forces, it's often risky," she added. 

It's for those reasons the SQ sent out a news release in 2011, advising those tempted to try being a "web sheriff" not to. 

"The fight against child sexual exploitation on the Internet is everyone's," the release said, adding citizens should focus on educating children, preventing and reporting, and leave the rest up to police.

Elsewhere in Canada, individuals using similar schemes have called themselves Creep Catchers. They film and make public their encounters, which has led to adverse effects for those they ambush. 

Last fall, a woman took her life after she was confronted by a self-styled pedophile hunter. And a 21-year-old man with a mental disability was fired after Creep Catchers confronted him at his work. 

with files from Radio-Canada's Anne Marie Lecomte