INDIANAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — Catching predators live on Facebook: they’re regular citizens, but they are taking on the task of trying to protect children.
A group of civilians compelled to take matters into their own hands, “Predator Catchers Indianapolis,” is an online community aimed at exposing child predators. Several Indianapolis parents and civilians formed the vigilante group, to set up people online looking to meet and have sex with underage children, then confronting the alleged predators in-person. It is a now-controversial act that has many experts conflicted.
The group says they exposed a band teacher at a Lebanon, Indiana high school in January. Police identified the teacher as Brian Boyer.
Eric Schmutte, founder of Predator Catchers Indiana, said when the group confronted Boyer he thought he was meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex.
“You had a 14-year-old girl come to where you work at a high school to have sex. Why the hell are you doing this?” Schmutte asked Boyer during the Facebook Live video.
“I apologize. I am a moron. I am an idiot. I just got carried away,” Boyer said in the video.
The video of Boyer’s confrontation, one of dozens, has 255,000 views on the Predator Catchers Indianapolis Facebook page. The video led to Boyer’s arrest on a charge of child solicitation.
Schmutte said he started the group because he saw “how the justice system treated predators.”
“I have always wanted to do something to make a difference. This was something I could do. So I made a profile one day and started catching guys,” Schmutte said.
He works as a welder and says he doesn’t make any money off the videos. Schmutte said his confrontations are never violent. He just wants to let the world know who the predators are.
Some child abuse experts say the vigilantes should be worried, not only about their own safety but about whether they are making the problem worse.
“Our concern here is, well several concerns, just the legal issues. You are not properly trained to do an undercover investigation. You don’t understand nuances of entrapment,” Victor Vieth with Zero Abuse Project said.
Vieth is concerned because more of the “predator catcher” groups are popping up around the country.
“There is also the risk of the offender being violent or threatening violence to their victims if they feel someone is onto them,” Vieth said.
Schmutte said he is not worried about threats of violence.
“We are civilians kind of like taking a stance over these things. We are not taking the law into our own hands. But we are taking a stance of this evil that is in this world ya know,” Schmutte said.
A spokesman for Lebanon Police said they don’t support the citizen group’s actions because it can be dangerous to the public and hurt prosecutions – but stopped short of saying the group doesn’t act as a deterrent against predators.