Their name is Creep Catchers; their game is exposing men who want to have sex with minors. But a Kelowna social worker says the organization was out of bounds when it “outed” her client in one of their videos.
In the video, shot earlier this month, the Creep Catchers confront a 28-year-old Kelowna man we’ll call John.
They accuse him of wanting to meet up with a 14-year-old girl he met on an adult dating site.
Shoni Bee was the one pretending to be the 14-year-old girl and was there when John was confronted.
“He continued to walk away and told us this 14-year-old shouldn’t be online,” Bee said.
But John’s social worker said he was reacting out of fear.
“Because he was afraid — he thought he was going to get beat up,” said Leisa Howell, who has known John for seven years.
She said what the Creep Catchers didn’t know is that John suffers from mental health issues including fetal alcohol syndrome and schizophrenia.
“These are people with developmental disabilities that do not have the capacity to truly understand what they’re doing,” Howell said.
She said John has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old and was simply looking for companionship — a girlfriend.
“He’s not a pedophile. He’s absolutely not and anybody that knows him, knows that,” Howell said.
But Creep Catchers said they had every reason to believe John was up to no good.
“He didn’t say he wanted to have sexual relations with me per se. He did say he wanted to make a family when I got older. Within an hour of speaking, he said, ‘I love you.’ He wanted me to sleep over. He wanted me to lie to his roommate and say I was 18,” Bee said.
Howell said she doesn’t condone John’s behaviour, but said organizations like Creep Catchers need to be more sensitive to the fact they might be dealing with people with mental health issues.
“It’s like they’re taking this huge fishing net and putting it out there — dragging them in. It’s a free-for-all. I do think that possibly there is some good here but I also think they need to have some resources for these people and a team of trained professionals to help them be effective,” Howell said.
Creep Catchers has discussed John’s case with Howell and say they will consider taking down the video because it appears that John has learned his lesson.
“Since our confrontation, he has been on Plenty of Fish again. He has made the conscious decision to go back on that site. He has talked to several of my decoy profiles and as soon as my age was discussed — I’ve told him I’m 15, 14 and 13 – he blocks that profile right away. And that tells me right away that what we’re doing is working,” Bee said.