But they aren’t doing it for the fame, the Facebook likes or the YouTube shares.
“We don’t make money off this. We aren’t doing it for the fame. It’s not violent. We are not vigilantes. We do not entrap people,” said First Lady, a group member who uses a fake name to protect her identity.
“It’s raw footage and raw chats that we give to the police,” she added. “Nothing is edited for them.”
All members of the group use fake names and hide their faces, protecting their identities from people who are angry they found a dark truth about someone they know or from employers who might not understand.
Mason, the president of the Cape Breton chapter, explained: “We are an online group that tries to protect children from online predators. So they don’t find themselves in …”
“… a situation they can’t get themselves out of,” First Lady finished.
The two, ages 35 and 37, are a couple with four children.
All five members of Creep Catchers Cape Breton are parents.
The group formed about a year ago after being recruited by the Halifax division, which needed help covering the area.
Mason admitted he got involved because a close family member of his was raped when they were children and he suspects another close family member of his, who is under 11 years of age, has been sexually abused.
“It ruins lives,” he said.
First Lady added: “It just seems as the years go on, there’s so much more of this happening … it’s seems every day there’s more and more of these men and women doing this.”
Sergeant Mike Murphy, the sergeant in charge of the Internet Child Exploitation unit (ICE) at Cape Breton Regional Police Services confirmed police do not work with the Creep Catchers and do not condone or support their activities.
They will accept a complaint and any evidence they have, but then they’ll conduct their own investigation, the same way they would any complaint from other community members.
“This is kind of a double-edged sword. We do appreciate and we would never want to discourage people reporting criminal activity to us,” he explained.
“We want those reports. We rely a great deal on the public to report these so we can be aware. What we don’t encourage is for people to take action and investigate crimes on their own.”
Murphy, who’s been in policing for 32-years, said his main concerns are for the safety of the Creep Catchers and the target. He also says Creep Catchers can collect evidence in a manner that isn’t “forensically sound” because they haven’t been trained the way police are.
Both Mason and First Lady agree there are safety issues and say they take precautions such as making the target turn off their car and setting up meets in areas that have a number of people around them.
However, when it comes to safety, First Lady worries more about the child that could have been tricked to meet the target than herself.
“What if it was a young girl, 12, 13 or 14, or maybe a boy, that showed up to meet one of these people. What would they do if that person was violent? What would they do if that person’s truck was filled with gags and weapons?” she asked.
“What’s a child going to do?”
The Cape Breton version of the group has caught three men since it started. Two of them drove more than four hours to get to their meets. Different police divisions are dealing with those two while the other is getting psychiatric help.
“There’s rumours going around that Creep Catchers are only out to get certain races or nationalities. It’s not like that. We’re after anyone that is doing this stuff,” explained First Lady.
Mason quickly added: “It don’t matter if you’re black, white, yellow, red, green, orange. If you are going to try to seduce a child, then we want you.”
How Creep Catchers get potential pedophiles:
• Set up a decoy profile on a dating app.
• Put the age of the decoy at 19.
• They never initiate contact.
• Unknown men or women initiate contact.
• “Catcher” responds to their target, asking their age.
• When target responds, “catcher” says decoy is 13 or 14.
• If target is OK with age, they keep talking.
• If target is not OK they say goodbye.
• That person is blocked by “catcher” to keep decoy going.
• Target leads conversation, they aren’t lured or entrapped.
• “Catcher” never engages in sexual conversation.
• Target instigates a meet, after instigating sexual conversations.
• “Catcher” agrees and prepares for meeting.
Police recommended reporting any potential child luring by:
• Calling local police.
• Anonymously make a tip through Crime Stoppers
• Online at www.cybertip.com