“Anti-pedophile activism” — a euphemism for criminality?

By Chris Zoukis . . . Since the initial airing of “To Catch a Predator” in 2004 on Dateline NBC, vigilante-style advocacy groups targeting child sex offenders have been popping up in major urban populations across North America.

Known as Anti-pedophile Activism, these groups not only hold demonstrations, but they also use social media to spread the word about their activities, often showing the faces of accused predators in a high intensity, often dramatic fashion.

Anti-pedophile Activism groups undeniably represent a large and passionate sector of society which is understandably outraged not only by issues such as pedophilia, child trafficking, and child abuse, but also perceive that there is a lack of appropriate punishment in cases where those accused have been found guilty. But are these vigilante-style actions really effective?

While law enforcement continues to battle child predators, they have been opposed to working with these vigilante groups, and even organizations that monitor sex crimes on the Internet say these types of groups can do more harm than good.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children‘s (NCMEC) Exploited Child Unit stated to the news site boston.com in 2003 that they do not condone investigations by citizens as those actions not only are ineffective in deterring predators but also can push them to hide evidence, move to other locations, and become otherwise more effective at hiding their identities.

The Internet safety organization CyberAngels, an offshoot of the Guardian Angels, share the same concerns. As CyberAngels’ representative Katya Gifford told Boston News, ”You cannot just break into your neighbors’ house because you suspect that they use drugs and collect evidence and hand it over to the police.”

And what happens when people are falsely targeted, having their reputation immediately ruined with cascading consequences for not only themselves but for their family and loved ones?

Sex offender rights are an important topic for consideration because the impact of an accusation goes deeper than the deed that may not have even happened.

Recently in Canada, an off-duty RCMP officer was ambushed and wrongly accused of being a pervert when leaving a gas station by the vigilante group Creep Catchers. In the UK, a father was mistaken for a similar looking offender and stabbed to death by a gang of vigilantes.

Unfortunately for those wrongly accused, there is currently little legal recourse. As Jonathan Zittrain, assistant professor of law at Harvard Law School and a director of its Berkman Center for Internet and Society, told Boston News, “Entrapment only really has meaning in the context of a criminal charge brought against somebody. Entrapment laws are meant to check the excesses of government power. But if groups exposing people are doing so on their own and not as an arm of any governmental agency, entrapment issues don’t tend to apply.”

While Anti-pedophile Activism groups may call themselves concerned citizens and may have the best interests of innocent children at heart, they’re often misinformed about the laws and legal ramifications of their actions. This can have dire consequences for police and other informed organizations as they track and attempt to legally pursue legitimate predators – never mind the consequences for those falsely accused..

Prevention is key. Educating children about Internet safety and personal boundaries are important topics of conversation for parents to have with their children to prevent them from falling prey to sexual predators in the first place.


Chris Zoukis is a 29 year old prisoner advocate and award winning fiction and non-fiction writer. He is also a Prison Legal News contributing writer, the founder of PrisonEducation.com and Prisonlawblog.com and a former editor of the Prison Behind Bars Newsletter.

12 comments for ““Anti-pedophile activism” — a euphemism for criminality?

  1. Roger Chapell
    November 23, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Kind of a Reader’s Digest take on these vigilante groups. The author’s characterization of these vigilantee types as “…concerned citizens who may have the best interests of innocent children at heart…” and are “often misinformed about the laws and legal ramifications of their actions…” is far too generous. They are more apt to be people looking for a justified target for their seething rage than concerned for “the best interests of innocent children.” Their vigilantee actions are not precipitated by misinformation which in any case would not pardon their actions. Vigilantees usually scorn the facts. Their targets are simply objects to expend a primal rage the true source of which is unknown to themselves. Reckoning that abuse of sex offenders will receive little public disapproval, they opportunistically choose sex offenders as people they can victimize with impunity. Vigilantees against sex offenders are no different than those who victimize gays, Jews, or other minorities whom they view as the symbolic cause of their own dissatisfaction.

    • Vigilante opinion of their efforts
      November 24, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Let’s ask the vigilante’s in Alaska or the Carolina’s who have made no bones about their efforts against those who are registered……better yet, read the articles about them and gather what they truly think…..they are monsters in their own right.

  2. Maestro
    November 23, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    I couldn’t even get passed the article’s title and I had to comment here. I certainly hope that someone will educate the public as to what the term “pedophile” means.
    The “kids” used to set people up on “To Catch A Preditor” are usually pretending to be 14/15 yr olds. That age group DOES NOT qualify a person as a pedophile. But the general public like to throw the word pedophile around because it makes their mission sound good and heroic.
    If anyone is a pedophile, it’s the late Elvis Presley.
    I really wish SOMEONE would interview Pricilla, while she’s still living, and ask her to speak on this issue plaguing our country today since SHE WAS a MINOR when her and Elvis started their romance.
    Anyone else her young age today is considered a “victim”. Why isn’t SHE considered a victim and Elvis’s name tarnished and taken OUT of the R&R Hall of Fame? Since this country likes to retroactivate those whose offenses happened long before Megan’s Law. It seems there is no statute of limitations on forcing a person to register and have their life ruined LONG LONG LONG after the fact.

    Thank you.

    • H n H
      November 25, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!

  3. November 22, 2016 at 2:01 am

    OK I have to chuckle at this article. They wanted me to come to a house in my ordeal so I said something how about in the park. Well anyway it is what it is. These cops and who or if they use other people in these things, they cannot endanger a kid so in reality it wasn’t a kid enticing.
    They make it so tough depending what items you have on you which is considered evidence of one’s intent, that and they potty mouth story and whether you back out or not they will come and get you.
    They are pulling the wool over everybody’s eye in this and its a money thing. I was so intimidated and undress in all this that a plea bargain was about all I could do at the time. They are still doing these things and it is so wrong.
    They will not give warning and are slim balls and no better than you and me. Must be a nice job to set behind a desk and set a target up.

  4. NH Registrant
    November 21, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    No one cares if any of us get maimed or killed. Only our family members would – if they love us and still think of us as family. It was said best in the Kevin Bacon movie “The Woodsman” when he got a visit from a police detective: “I could say you jumped me. You’d just be another dead piece of ****. Who would miss you?” That is the way the general public thinks of Registrants. I don’t use the term “Sex Offender” because that term implies that it is an ongoing thing. And those of us that actually look at FACTS know that less than 5% of ALL Registrants actually commit another sex crime.

    The myths and mis-information is constantly being fed into peoples’ minds by the media and ambitious, lying politicians. We live the rest of our lives with a target on our back. Like we are carrying a time bomb that could go off at any time, or never, and take out anyone who is near us (family, friends, etc,). Sure, this all sounds pretty dramatic to anyone who isn’t a Registrant. But, it doesn’t change the truth.

    So, what do we do? We carry on and try to stay out of any trouble as much as humanly possible. We avoid children and avoid our protective, compassionate, nature if a child is in distress near us. We do this out of fear. When we let our guards down, we pay a heavy price. A man in my state was playing with his kids at a playground. He was rough-housing and tickling them. A nearby kid wanted in on the fun. So, not thinking of it, he ticked the newcomer. The child’s mother panicked and called the police. She didn’t even say anything or even ask questions! He was plastered across the evening news for several days and was eventually found innocent of any wrong doing. Even so, his life was forever marked by it – both psychologically and socially. His children had to see the father they loved grabbed and taken away from them. Imagine what that did to THEM!!

    You see, none of that story matters to most people. They would rather use the bulldozer of law on the haystack of crime to find one tiny offending needle.

  5. NH Registrant
    November 21, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    No one cares if any of us get maimed or killed. Only our family members would – if they love us and still think of us as family. It was said best in the Kevin Bacon movie “The Woodsman” when he got a visit from a police detective: “I could say you jumped me. You’d just be another dead piece of ****. Who would miss you?” That is the way the general public thinks of Registrants. I don’t use the term “Sex Offender” because that term implies that it is an ongoing thing. And those of us that actually look at FACTS know that less than 5% of ALL Registrants actually commit another sex crime.

    The myths and mis-information is constantly being fed into peoples’ minds by the media and ambitious, lying politicians. We live the rest of our lives with a target on our back. Like we are carrying a time bomb that could go off at any time, or never, and take out anyone who is near us (family, friends, etc,). Sure, this all sounds pretty dramatic to anyone who isn’t a Registrant. But, it doesn’t change the truth.

    So, what do we do? We carry on and try to stay out of any trouble as much as humanly possible. We avoid children and avoid our protective, compassionate, nature if a child is in distress near us. We do this out of fear. When we let our guards down, we pay a heavy price. A man in my state was playing with his kids at a playground. He was rough-housing and tickling them. A nearby kid wanted in on the fun. So, not thinking of it, he ticked the newcomer. The child’s mother panicked and called the police. She didn’t even say anything or even ask questions! He was plastered across the evening news for several days and was eventually found innocent of any wrong doing. Even so, his life was forever marked by it – both psychologically and socially. His children had to see the father they loved grabbed and taken away from them. Imagine what that did to THEM!!

    You see, none of that story matters to most people. They would rather use the bulldozer of law on the haystack of crime to find one tiny offending needle.

  6. LM
    November 20, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    While were playing semantics here, the term “sex offender” is a widely accepted euphemism for pervert, predator and pedophile.

    I think it’s high these so called “child safety advocates” be labeled a designated hate group and an ongoing threat to public safety.

    • T
      November 21, 2016 at 2:09 am

      I wonder if these so called “child safety advocates” can be criminals not just for vigilantism, but have committed crimes relating to sexual offenses and have never been caught? You know what I mean?

      • Yep, they know what you mean...
        November 21, 2016 at 1:14 pm

        Child safety advocates, adj; def: hypocrites, those who have not been caught despite committing same offenses or have broken the law in the same manner they prosecute, see Walsh, John

  7. david
    November 20, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    What good is the public registry except as a tool for vigilantes? Basically paints a target on citizens and invites anybody and everybody to take a shot. Never mind the circumstances behind the crime or the fact the person has paid their dues and is just trying to survive.

    • mike
      November 21, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      america is a brutal hypocrytical place

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