The truth about online vigilante group Creep Catchers: Part Two

Facing increasing scrutiny and criticism for illegal and unethical behaviour

This is part two of a two-part series about what’s wrong with the Creep Catchers

When Marie Bullon started with Ryan Laforge and the Surrey Creep Catchers there were rules, there was a structure, and they figured they were working within the grey lines of the law.

But that didn’t last and the methodical if vigilante acts of finding sexual predators online, gathering evidence, documenting meetings, and forwarding it on to police wasn’t good enough for Laforge.

“He started to change the rules,” Bullon says. “There were no rules. When it came to chatting he would say whatever. That’s illegal, I wouldn’t participate in that.”

She recalls watching a live feed at home one time of one of Laforge’s confrontations and she can hear a fight breaking out as the live feed cuts.

“He decided to beat the crap out of this guy,” she says. “It was very much a gang mentality.”

The gang metaphor works in other ways, in that there is an in crowd and an out crowd. If you question the group in anyway from without, you are labelled a pedophile or a pedophile lover, colloquially a “goof” in the vernacular of these guys.

And if you question from within, also like a gang, you are ex-communicated kicked out and similarly labelled.

Vocal Creep Catchers critic and collaborator on The Truth About Creep Catchers website lawyer Craig Jones sees similarities with the gang metaphor.

“They are just completely enraptured in the echo chamber of their mutual adulation and just sort of feeding on that,” Jones says. “If anyone criticizes their dear leader they are immediately banned from the site.”

Laforge’s response to his recent legal troubles – such as being charged with assault, and now being ordered by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commission for British Columbia ordered Laforge to take videos down – is beyond belligerent.

“My name is Ryan Laforge and the OIPC CAN SUCK IT” was one of his responses.

Defiance may be Laforge’s response, but it may get him into trouble. Jones explains the nuances of the privacy breaches Creep Catchers commits. To start with, the privacy complaint he filed in November 2016 took a long time to decide, because the OIPC had to decide that Creep Catchers was an organization. The OPIC laws only apply to organizations.

And as soon as an organization places a deceptive ad, they are breaking the law. So, for an example, if Becky in Vancouver places an ad and gets 100 responses, at some point Becky pulls the switch and says she’s only 14 years old and suddenly just five people carry on.

Because Creep Catchers is an organization, it has already committed 100 privacy offences because of the false advertising.

Then there are the laws being broken. Creep Catchers are self-appointed law enforcement officers in a sense, and they operate the way police stings operate. But if you go back and forth on chat logs and share images of underage girls, for example, to lure a sexual predator, you have committed the criminal offence of sharing child pornography.

“The police are allowed to do that,” Jones explains. Under section 25 of the criminal code, designated peace officers can commit crimes during stings. The Creep Catchers can’t.

But Jones’ gut opposition to the Creep Catchers is much more fundamental than their brashness or even the illegality.

“This whole idea of entertainment-driven vigilantism worries me,” he says. “It is fundamentally undemocratic and it is grossly unfair to the people they target. It goes against he rules of decency that we have as a society established over 500 years of struggle.”

But what about Don Putt? The Creep Catchers busted Don Putt and now he is behind bars, having been convicted of three separate offences dating back to the 1970s.

“Yes, that’s the argument they make,” Jones says. “If you believe that the end always does justify the means then there is no answer to that.

“If, though, you accept what we’ve accepted in western society for 400 years, then the end doesn’t justify the means. Process matters and protection of the innocent matters. We need to agree as a society on rules.”

Is Jones worried about a backlash? A little bit. He said he had his own hashtag on social media for a while: #f—kcraigjones.

But mostly not.

“His supporters are very outspoken on his website and uniformly cowardly everywhere else,” he says. “They know we are a court order away from finding out the names.”

As for Bullon, why does she do it? Like many or maybe even most of those involved in the movement, she’s been on the wrong side of sexual misconduct.

“I was vulnerable and taken advantage of by older men,” she says. “When I grew up we didn’t have this social media at the tip of our fingers. I see this underworld that is going on with the Internet and it scares the crap out of me.

“Sometimes you feel like you aren’t even making a dent.”

In the end, Laforge has vowed he won’t stop no matter how much he is fined or sent to jail. And given his near cult status by adoring followers who swoon over his every comment on social media, many of whom are unswayed by compassion, ethics, civility or even logic or laws, it’s unlikely he’ll go away any time soon.

Laforge declined to comment for this story.

• See Part One in this series on the problem with Creep Catchers here.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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Surrey Creep Catchers President Ryan LaForge with his promise to appear in court document. (Tom Zytaruk photo)

After being ‘blasted’ by Surrey Creep Catcher president Ryan Laforge for disagreeing with his methods, Marie Bullon created Block Guardians. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress) After being ‘blasted’ by Surrey Creep Catcher president Ryan Laforge for disagreeing with his methods, Marie Bullon created Block Guardians. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)