This week, B.C.’s acting privacy commissioner delivered a legal blow to a controversial Surrey vigilante group that lures, then shoots videos of people it claims are pedophiles, posting ambushes online in a bid to shame them.
In his ruling, Drew MacArthur ordered the Surrey Creep Catcher group to destroy those videos and any other personal information it had gathered.
MacArthur also took a swipe at the group’s claims that it protects public safety, saying its actions can’t be viewed as legitimate investigations or even journalism.
The ruling was called a “watershed” moment by an expert troubled by a rash of live-streamed stings — some of which turn abusive.
But it’s not clear the privacy ruling will curb so-called “creep catchers.”
Many of these groups see themselves as saviours, performing a valuable public service where authorities fail, say critics.
“[These groups] see themselves as above the law and outside the law.They really see themselves as heroic — protecting the public when the police won’t,” said Wade Deisman, an associate dean and criminologist at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, who has studied the phenomenon, involving only a “scant handful” of groups in Canada, since it began .
Deisman says many of the people who join these groups — which he says resemble “gangs” — are sexual abuse survivors themselves.
That can translate into a zeal for catching sexual predators that won’t be dented by a privacy ruling.
Driven by fear
Homegrown “justice” groups are fed by fears which morph into a “bubble of hysteria,” says Deisman.
While worldwide, police admit struggling to stop online child luring, preventative efforts to educate children and parents are more effective than civilian entrapment, he says.
“Creep Catchers pretends like there is just this sea of vulnerable children out…