A Red Deer Creep Catcher member has been charged following an incident with a Lacombe resident late last month.
Lacombe police charged 37-year-old Karl Young of Red Deer with criminal harassment and mischief following an investigation into conversations between the suspect and the victim on a social website.
According to a release issued on Monday, the suspect and victim had been communicating online over the past three months. The victim attempted to block the suspect from conversation, however, the suspect continued to access the victim’s network.
In November, a false pretence was allegedly used by the suspect to convince the victim to meet in person in Lacombe. When the victim arrived, however, a man wearing a hoodie shoved a cellphone in his face and informed him he was being recorded and has been busted by Creep Catchers.
The victim was able to leave the scene due to friends passing by, but a video of the incident was later posted to the Red Deer Creep Catchers website and Facebook page along with false allegations against the victim. The post and Facebook page were later removed.
Police are working to identify a second suspect who may have been involved or assisted the suspect in the incident.
Young is due to appear in Red Deer Provincial Court on Dec. 9, 2016.
“In this case, police believe the victim was targeted online and lured into a situation by a person or group using vigilante type tactics without justification or facts to support their claims,” said Acting Police Chief Lorne Blumhagen in the release.
Speaking with the Globe on Tuesday, Blumhagen elaborated and said Creep Catchers, in particular, tends to go on information that has gaps in it.
“Some of the information this group has passed on to law enforcement has voids or lapses in the information. Much of their actions are based on assumptions they make or situations they create that may cause others to look like they’re breaking laws or doing something wrong,” he said.
“They really are, many times, on fishing trips trying to find cases or justify their actions when in fact they’ve created a circumstance that has been misinterpreted.”
Creep Catchers is a group aiming to expose would-be pedophiles and people targeting children for sexual activity, often by posing as minors. Currently, it operates in 22 cities across Canada, primarily in Alberta and B.C.
There are polarizing opinions on the group and their actions, and it isn’t the first time they’ve made headlines.
In October, a Red Deer woman said she went to police with allegations that a member of the local chapter planned to use a 14-year-old girl to bait and trap a suspected predator. She said she had been threatened by the vigilantes after speaking out against their tactics.
Other chapters have also been questioned after posting a video of a woman suffering from mental illness who would later commit suicide. A Surrey, B.C. man and even an RCMP officer have also been falsely identified as sexual predator.
Others feel their intentions are noble.
However, police agencies across the country, including LPS, widely condemn what they’re doing.
“That group has shown they work outside of law enforcement, definitely have their own agenda and are employing tactics that wouldn’t be acceptable to be used by law enforcement or in any crime prevention initiative,” said Blumhagen.
“In some cases they almost use strategies that are more in line with entrapment, which is not an accepted form of practice within the laws of this country.”
He also said he wouldn’t recommend anyone going to a “quasi-enforcement group” with regards to exposing people that may or may not be doing something wrong.
“I wouldn’t encourage anyone to engage this group to take any form of action,” he said. “Investigation is the role of the police and we have the cooperation of many agencies. We also know the rules of law and what can and can’t be done and what techniques or tactics can by employed during an investigation.”