“We just want these creeps off the street.”
The leader of the Richmond and Vancouver chapter of Creep Hunters Canada, Brendon Brady, explained his group’s motivation after they managed to lure a 36-year-old man to a McDonald’s, where the suspect believed he was meeting a 15-year-old girl he’d been chatting with online.
The confrontation and “catch” two weeks ago at McDonald’s on Alderbridge Way was the group’s first in Richmond and led to the man in question being arrested at the scene by the police for suspected child luring.
Brady, 31, and a fellow Creep Hunter member handed over their online evidence and video footage to police at the scene and, according to Richmond RCMP, the man has been released on strict conditions while the police continues its investigation.
Members of Creep Hunters, which has chapters across the country, pose online as children to lure would-be predators.
It brands itself as a “group of individuals who catch the online predators who use the Internet to seek and exploit children online in chat sites.”
However, their emergence in Richmond — hot on the heels of a similar citizen-led group, Creep Catchers, which is active in the Fraser Valley and led to a police officer and school principal being charge — has prompted questions about public safety and the rise of vigilantism.
During the group’s 26-day, online conversation with the suspect, one of their “chatters,” posing as 15-year-old “Kat,” was told how the man was going to cut himself to prove his love for her.
Despite knowing their “creep” was likely emotionally unstable, the group, led by Brady, still agreed to meet the man in a public place during evening hours, when there could potentially be families around.
“Legally, we can’t suggest where to meet up,” said Brady, who says his five-strong chapter includes a student lawyer and a licensed, private investigator.
“For this to work, we have to go where he suggests; it has to be him that makes the first contact, as well.
“As for being vigilantes: Not really, because, the thing is, we try to follow the same protocols as the police.
“Vigilantism is negative, we try to run this as professionally as possible.”
Brady said the sting on Sunday, Nov. 27 was also the group’s first interaction with the Richmond RCMP.
“They were fantastic,” he said.
“They were very polite and expressed a lot of gratitude. We’re not claiming to be working with them or anything, we just want to help get these creeps off the street as much as anyone.”
A statement released by Richmond RCMP told how, on the evening in question, officers responded to a business in the 8100 block of Alderbridge Way before learning that “the venue was chosen after a series of alleged online interactions in which an adult male believed he was to meet with a 15-year old female.”
However, the RCMP also stated that it does not condone or recommend vigilantism.
“Obtaining proper evidence required for this type of crime is very specific,” said Richmond RCMP’s Cpl. Dennis Hwang.
“When individuals choose to bypass law enforcement to take matters in their own hands, investigations can be jeopardized, key evidence may become lost, and the individuals may jeopardize their personal safety and that of others.”
Brady claims his chapter also made around 20 similar “catches” in the Vancouver area in the last eight months or so; although, none have led to arrests.
On Saturday, however, he said he handed over evidence to two undercover VPD officers, who then went to meet the suspect at the arranged time and place.
Const. Brian Montague, spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), said the VPD was “familiar with the group.”
However, Montague said the VPD “generally do not share information publically about any potential or ongoing investigations unless criminal charges are approved by Crown Counsel.
“We encourage anyone with information about a crime to contact police.”
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Chapter not into chasing suspects down street
Creep Hunters’ counterparts in the Fraser Valley — Creep Catchers, also a nationwide, citizen-led group dedicated to exposing child predators — made the headlines in the fall after luring suspects to a public place, confronting them and publicly shaming them online.
Their “investigations” have led to a Mission elementary school principal, Jason Alan Obert, 37, and a Surrey Mountie, Const. Dario Devic, being charged with child luring.
However, the group has also come in for heavy criticism in some quarters after an innocent man was wrongly identified as one of the suspects by members of the public posting on Creep Catchers’ Facebook page.
Questions have also been raised about the group seeking attention by posting their stings and their evidence online before even going to the police with their findings, including one “catch” they streamed live on the Internet.
Brady said his group is not out for fame and have recently tweaked their procedures to avoid similar criticism.
“We’ve changed our internal structures. We’re not going to be posting anything online until we’ve gone to the police,” he said.
“With our new structures, we’re confident of more arrests being made.”
In reference to Creep Catchers’ videos of group members chasing suspects down the street with their video cameras, Brady said that’s not something his chapter plans on doing.
“Our main purpose isn’t to blast people and post stuff online; a lot of the time, we will get a confession (at the “catch") and then give over the device to the police,” said Brady,“We’re not into chasing people down the street calling them names.”
Videos posted on Creep Hunters’ website, however, show its members in the B.C. Interior confronting suspects and branding them paedophiles. Whether those videos were posted after the group had gone to the police is unclear.
Asked why he got involved in Creep Hunters in the first place, Brady said, “When I was younger, a guy tried to kidnap my eight-year-old sister. And a few girls that I’ve dated have expressed similar experiences with older men, and I could see that it still affects them to this day.”
‘Catch” set up at McDonald’s, despite group knowing suspect was unstable
After responding to Creep Hunters’ ad on Craigslist, the 36-year-old chatted online with 15-year-old “Kat” for 26 days.
On several occasions, the man, who showed signs of instability, wanted to meet her, but the group’s decoy, posing as Kat, made excuses not to meet.
Eventually, they agreed to meet him at McDonald’s on Alderbridge Way at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27.
Brady and a Creep Hunters colleague got there at 7 p.m. to have a look around. They already had face pictures of the guy they’d arranged to meet; he had even sent one en route.
“We get there early so we can be calm and collected and gather the best evidence for the police,” said Brady.
The pair went inside at 7:50 p.m.
Their “friend” was already sitting there. Brady sat down next to him.
“I asked if he was David (name changed),” said Brady.
“You’re here to meet Kat?” he asked the man.
When told that it was actually Creep Hunters he had been talking to for 26 days, the man initially denied it, then confessed.
“We said he was free to go, but he just continued to talk in circles; he was definitely in shock,” said Brady.
“We told him that we didn’t want him to hurt himself.
“He started crying and shouting and then called his family on the phone.”
A bystander witnessing the commotion called the police, who soon arrived, roughly at the same time as members of the man’s family.