A Surrey man says he was wrongly accused of being the subject of one of Surrey Creep Catcher’s latest videos, and now he plans on suing.
Darrell Berekoff said he was falsely identified in several Facebook comments related to a video called “Meet Darrel,” first posted on July 30. His name and picture were posted on the social media site last week, which has now resulted in death threats and messages to various members of Berekoff’s family.
The “Darrel” featured in the video is only identified by his first name and age. His profession, the drywall business, is mentioned in the video. Unfortunately for Berekoff, he shares the same profession, name, and is about the same age.
“His name just happens to be Darrell and he happens to be involved in the drywall business. And my age is similar,” Berekoff said.
Berekoff is a 38-year-old Surrey resident who said he is now scared for his safety. He was alerted to the Facebook post on Wednesday evening when his aunt reached out after his cousin received a message from one of Creep Catchers’ supporters.
“Darrel Berekoff is a pedophile,” the message read. “Keep this pedophiles[sic] away from your kids. Sorry to say he is your cousin.”
Other comments on the post told another supporter to repost Berekoff’s information on Facebook.
“Basically, from there someone went ahead and started messaging my family members,” Berekoff said.
“I don’t know how they’ve come to this conclusion. It’s not me in the video, not even remotely me. They made a huge mistake.”
Upon hearing about the identification, Berekoff said he phoned Ryan LaForge, the head of Surrey Creep Catchers. LaForge apparently told him that his Facebook profile matched up with the information they had about the video subject, and he apologized for the mis-identification. At that point, the posts referring to Berekoff were deleted.
LaForge told Global News that he never explicitly said the man in the video was Berekoff but asked his followers if they thought it was him.
Part of the apology sent by LaForge read: “It seems the person used his information when he was talking to the underage girl and I took it at face value and I was wrong. I hope you expect my sincere apology to this matter. I hope you understand that we are looking out for the kids and trying to keep them safe by all means necessary.”
But Berekoff said the apology was “too little, too late.”
“Thousands of people have seen this picture of me and now I just got a phone call from my boss saying that someone just called the office threatening to kill him if they keep me employed.”
The death threat to his boss has Berekoff particularly anxious. He said he had called LaForge from the office phone, then the threat came to that line two days later from a private number.
“I’m just really worried at this point… This is a huge deal. I don’t feel safe.”
Everyone Berekoff has told has been supportive of his plight. His boss suggested he get a lawyer and file a lawsuit, something he’s prepared to do.
“Somebody needs to be held responsible for this. Let’s face it, if I have to move someone, is going to be paying for that.”
In Berekoff’s mind, being a pedophile is the worst crime someone could be accused of.
“If anyone knows me they can vouch for my character. I have eight nieces and nephews who just love me. I would never hurt an animal or a child,” he said.
“This came as the biggest shock ever. Out of nowhere. My girlfriend can’t believe it, my family can’t believe it. I have no idea how many people have been told.”
The Surrey Creep Catchers Facebook page where Berekoff’s name and photo were posted has almost 6,000 followers. The YouTube video posted last week already has over 6,000 views.
He said he tried calling the police for help but was told there was nothing they could do. In fact, he was disheartened with the response he was given.
“The cops were like ‘If it’s you in the video, we can help you,’ and I was just like ‘Are you guys nuts? It’s not me in the video, why can’t you help me?’”
Dr. Rob Gordon, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University, said groups like Surrey Creep Catchers “need to get sued.”
Gordon believes the issue of public shaming has gotten to a point where irrevocable damage can be done. Prior to the digital age, public shaming would take place in town squares or later, subscription-based newspapers, meaning the extent to which someone could be defamed was typically minimized. Now, social media can spread slanderous information like wildfire.
“It’s the same as the mob mentality that used to accompany lynchings,” Gordon said.
“The only remedy available to somebody who is wronged in this way is to go to court and sue the individuals who are defaming them.”
Like in Berekoff’s case, these public mis-identifications are doing a lot of harm to a lot of innocent people, Gordon added.
“We’ve reached a point now where it’s not funny any more. It really has to be addressed and I would suggest to the Ministry of Justice both federally and provincially that it is time to take a look at it and hopefully bring in some regulation.”
This isn’t the first time the subject of a Creep Catchers video has faced public humiliation, resulting in tragic consequences. Earlier this month a mentally ill Edmonton woman took her own life after being featured in one of the vigilante’s public stings.
For his part, Surrey Creep Catchers’ LaForge told Global News he doesn’t think what he did was wrong.
“I would like to apologize, not for making an inquiry on trying to find the identification of our creep, but for people not respecting the code of [Surrey Creep Catchers], which is non-violent and makes no accusations without full proof.”
He said he doesn’t condone the actions of his followers that led to Berekoff receiving threats.
“I thought [the identity] was worth looking into, so a picture of the complainant was put in a comment thread, with a comment asking if anyone could verify these were the same people. Unfortunately followers have taken things into their own hands, which is not what we ask for.”
Berekoff said in response, “To me, that should be against the law. They invaded my privacy, they’ve put me in danger. What is this guy thinking?”
“My phone number is right there, why didn’t you phone me? But no, you just put my face out there and now I’m getting death threats.”
He added that he thinks Surrey Creep Catchers is doing a good thing by going after suspect pedophiles, but they’re doing it “the wrong way” and someone is going to get hurt.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.