An Alberta dad says he was humiliated when vigilantes on a crusade against online predators targeted him by mistake.
44-year-old Jason O’Hara tells Global News he was outside a Calgary convenience store having a late night snack and chatting with his wife on the phone, when the self-styled “creep catchers” appeared.
“They all of a sudden singled me out.” says O’Hara. “Started videotaping me in my car and saying that I was texting to meet up with this 14-year-old girl.”
O’Hara says it was humiliating, and what’s worse, they were taping the whole thing.
“They were confirming to themselves, between themselves, that I was the guy, while they were in my face with their phones.”
O’Hara says it was a call to Calgary Police that finally cleared things up. Officers managed to convince the two men, in their late teens, that they’d made a mistake and had them delete their videos.
Sgt. John Guigon is in charge of the Internet Child Exploitation Team, and isn’t too impressed with this kind of behaviour. He tells Global News it’s special training and experience that will catch online predators, not vigilantes.
“I think what they’re really doing is creating entertainment.” Guigon says. “I think they’re posting their videos of their escapades and trying to get as much likes and clicks as possible. I don’t think it’s helping anyone. It certainly hasn’t helped my unit.”
Guigon says it’s a dangerous game they’re playing, since these public punishers have a higher risk of making mistakes, and labelling innocent people as pedophiles.
“I think it’s probably inevitable that they’re going to get the wrong person.” he says. “And really, they could ruin a person’s life. They are trying people in the court of public opinion, and that really is not right. It goes against our–well, my sense of justice, anyway.”
As for O’Hara, police say it’s unlikely he has any grounds to lay charges. O’Hara says he’d settle for a simple apology. (ms, News Talk 770, Global News)