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IntroductionCanada of late has been witnessing a series of incidents whereby an online vigilante community– known as “Creep Hunters”, is active in nabbing pedophiles. These pedophiles apparently areresponsible for child pornography as they lure them through the internet and sexually assaultthem. Which is why this vigilante group is aggressively pursuing to trap these online sexualpredators. While a section of the society has appreciated the efforts of such groups becausesomehow these predators are finding it hard to carry out their child sexual abuses. However, ithas also sparked a debate whether these creep catchers should be given a free hand or shouldtheir activities be curbed by bringing them inside the ambit of law("Creep Catcher's hunt foronline predator’s sparks police warning", 2016). It is also being seen that these vigilante groupsare obstructing and interrupting the police in their work. So, the police thinks that thisconfrontation and interference on the part of these creep hunters is not healthy for the society.Creep Hunters and their MethodologiesCreep Hunters refers to a group of people who lure men online (also known as online predators)- those who are desperate to have sex with under-age girls. These sexual predators, with the helpof internet, seek and exploit children by starting chats with them on websites. These children inturn find the whole process exciting and think that they will be safe. But the creep hunters findand expose such pedophiles. Not for too long, these creep hunters have videotaped a lot of men.These men show up ostensibly for meeting girls which they expect to be under age only to findthemselves trapped by creep hunters.Creep Catcher is an organization in Canada that is involved in anti-pedophile activism. Thisorganization is supported by 17 other branches across Canada, whose members’ modus operandiis to carry out non-violent sting operations(Wood, 2016). They start their operations by posingas children on dating sites inside chat rooms and convince the persons sitting at the other end thatthey are what they pretend to be. Finally, they agree to meet those adults for sexual interactions.Then they catch these child lurers on camera or video chats and offer a chance to make publicstatements. These pedophiles are then reprimanded, ridiculed as well as loudly shamed. In somecases they are booked under the law.There have been instances when the creep hunters nabbed law enforcing officials as well. In asting operation conducted by the creep hunters in Kamloops, Canada, a Deputy Sheriff (KevinJohnston) was trapped with the same methodology. Later on, he was found to have violated thelaw and charged with four child-sex related offences on account of an investigation after avigilante group claimed his involvement in sexual activity(Bogart, 2016). Johnston is nowfacing charges at least on three counts related to the communication with a person who wasexpected to be under age in order to facilitate sexual offence. These charges against Johnstonhave surfaced just after a news was doing the rounds regarding a RCMP officer. He is facingcharges in asimilar vigilante group sting in Surrey.Police have therefore issued a warning tothese vigilante groups such as Creep Catchers or Creep Hunters that they are doing more harmthan good.
Social Aspects of VigilantismThe key question that arises here is should these vigilante group be allowed to do what they aredoing even if their activities are driven by a social cause. Some sociologists and psychologistshave also given their opinions on this matter. According to them people should not quicklyappreciate the efforts and activities of these creep hunters. In this respect, a sociologist ChrisSchneider, in is recent research report regarding policing and media, has said that the efforts ofsuch vigilante groups are severely undermining the justice system. Schneider goes on to say thatbecause of the lack of due process, people can go after these individuals as well as their familymembers. This brings a feeling of retaliation in them, so this is where the real danger anddarkness lies that has no end.The sociologist such as Chris Schneider has termed these activities as a risky endeavor ormisadventure on the part of creep hunters. He said that these vigilantes do not possess the levelof skills that police officers do(Nair, 2016). Police is always well equipped and highlyprofessional in investigating criminal activities. On the other hand, these unprofessionalvigilantes, Schneider said, can compromise evidence and put themselves in real danger. For aninstance, whenever the vigilantes share images and videos on online platform, it creates a heftywok for the police officers because they have to determine whether the evidence has beentainted. Justice will be dispensed faster if the important evidences such as these could be directlytaken by the police. It will also ensure that the mob mentality of providing punishment withoutdue process will be curbed and so will reduce the risk of innocent people from being falselyaccused.The police being well-resourced should step in and do the investigations notwithstanding thepublic perception. They have expert personnel and well-designed system that can be used to nabsuch offenders who carry out their sexual afflictions through internet while staying anonymous.According to a study, because of the overestimation on the part of the public, the inflatednumbers sex offenders online has allowed the vigilante groups to emerge out of nowhere. It is noto suggest that there are no sex offenders out there but they are not as much as the people thinkof. The police officers are always seem reiterating that they were really concerned when peopletry to bypass law enforcement and take matters into their own hands. The RCMP and other lawenforcement agencies have maintained that when it comes to catching perverts or sexualoffenders, they always face a problem as someone else treads on their turf, especially creephunters(Goodyear, 2016).Another negative aspect of such vigilante justice is falsely fabricating the innocent people bydeclaring him or her as a pedophile or sexual offender. The experts have warned that such a trendcould end in a disaster because in a recent incident a RCMP officer was wrongly accused onsocial media of being a pedophile. So, in such situations saying sorry simply doesn’t cut it. Theprofessionals from different walks of life have also highlighted the pitfalls of online vigilantismin the wake of recent incidents of arrests stemming from the investigations conducted by the self-proclaimed citizen cops. Some of these vigilantes have been heard saying that they do not care
the due process of law. The presumption of innocence or the legalities associated with theprocess of entrapment are really pale when they compare the feeling of excitement that comes bydenouncing a creep on social media.The arrest and charging of Kamloops Sheriff has definitely emboldened the creep hunters.However, by any means, the mistaken entrapment and false identification of an entirely innocentRCMP officer cannot be justified by any yardstick. Moreover, the head of the group had issuedan apology by saying that their group was trying to do public service and got carried away. Onthe other hand, the police always stay on their toes to avoid any such wrong arrests becausewrongful convictions always make headlines(Elliot, 2016). It is always said in the law corridorsthat one miscarriage of justice brings the whole system into disrepute.For quite some time, dozens of police officers have requested the groups like Creep Catchers andCreep Hunters to stop their activities of catching pedophiles and allow the professional do thatfor themselves. But their appeal, as it appears, seems to have fallen on the deaf ears as the policecannot control the platforms in internet and the vulnerability of children. So, there is a need toensure the transparency in the justice system and to start publicizing the trials that are beingresulting from the investigations carried out by the police(Cheadle, 2013).Furthermore, the police do feel responsible to perform their duties by absolutely recognizing theneed to chase down the individuals who are in the business of preying on children. But it is alsoimportant to understand that there can be tremendous risk for the public if in case these vigilanteconfrontations go wrong at any time. It is not that police is sleeping and doing nothing about thismenace of sexual predators but it is doing it in its own way within the scope of law. The policetask force has been operating since 2011 and there are multiple units were also being deployedthat include highly trained sex-crime investigators seeking to identify and prosecute the worst ofthe worst sexual offenders. However, some police officers believe that they share a common goalwith these vigilantes indicating that there might be a change of attitudes on both the parts. Also,in some cases the groups are looking to the possibilities of modifying their methodologies. Someof them also believe that the repeat offenders should find counselling when they are confrontedwith the group or the law.Legal Implications of Vigilante ActsAccording to the New Citizen’s Arrest Rules in Canada, the law has expanded the power ofCanadians to go ahead and nab the people who violate the laws("New citizen's arrest rules tocome into effect", 2016). The Act has helped in streamlining self-defense provisions in which thenew legislation doesn’t require any person to catch a suspect red-handed. It however, allows thelaw to take its effect by apprehending the suspect within a reasonable amount of time aftercommitting of a crime. The primary reason for this, as per the legislators, was that the currentlegislation was too limited that strictly required a suspect to be caught red handed. Also, therewas a caveat: people need to be very careful in terms of citizen’s arrest because there areinherent dangers involved in this. The arrest can only be considered legal if the police do not findit feasible to catch the suspect themselves. Moreover, people need to behave reasonably in thismatter. This new law, also named as Lucky Moose Bill, tries to consolidate the self-defense