Surrey Creep Catchers’ president Ryan LaForge said he’s “done with citizens arrests” and “done getting the police involved” after pleading guilty to two counts of assault this week.
“It has nothing to do with police themselves, every cop I’ve dealt with has been good,” LaForge told the Now-Leader Tuesday, the day after he plead guilty to two counts of assault in Surrey Provincial Court which stemmed from “stings” his group did in Whalley on April 3 and 19, 2017.
“I have no hard feelings or whatever, but they’re up against the same battle we are, as a community…. I don’t know what it’s going to take for everyone to wake up at the same time and say enough’s enough,” he added.
In the April 3 incident, LaForge said he performed a “citizens arrest” on a man he alleged came to pay for sex with a six-year-old outside the Tim Horton’s at Central City Shopping Centre, in the 10100-block of King George Boulevard.
While the convictions have led to LaForge discontinuing such “citizens arrests,” they don’t deter him from continuing to conduct “stings,” which involve Creep Catchers representatives posing as children online, arranging to meet adults who think they’ve been communicating with a child and confronting them, while filming them.
LaForge said Tuesday he is still live streaming videos of “stings” on Facebook, which he then removes from Facebook and posts on his website.
While the group was doing about “five catches a day” in their early days in 2016, LaForge said he aims for one a week now.
“I’ve slowed down for a couple of reasons,” he said Tuesday. “One is just for my mental well-being. I’m just taking it a lot slower, to just take care of myself mentally, have more time for my family and stuff. I work more, I kind of ran out of my savings after a good year, so I’m back to work.”
LaForge said he’s changing gears, to a degree, and instead of so many “stings,” wants to focus his time on changes to legislation to keep convicted pedophiles in prison longer.
“I knew I had to attack this epidemic from another position,” LaForge said. “I’m sitting here catching guys all the time and yes, it’s exposing them, people are seeing it, it’s creating awareness, but I feel like a dog chasing my own tail. I want to see the laws change so if and when these guys are caught by police there’s a mandatory minimum sentence.”
Long sentences are “too rare,” he added.
“It’s not fair, they leave a trail of broken children,” LaForge said, noting he’s also become frustrated with other aspects of the system.
“People say ‘it’s not even a real child,’” when referencing Surrey Creep Catcher stings, he said, “but that’s what’s wrong with the justice system. They wait for a victim before they can do anything. Unfortunately, I get parents messaging me all the time…. Our laws are a joke. That’s the sad, sad thing. India just adopted a death penalty for sexual assault under the age of 12. We have third and second world countries taking stands against this and here we are, protecting them.”
Further, LaForge said the group is also pushing for a public registry of sex offenders.
But, he acknowledged, those would be “huge, huge steps” and said he’s working with “not a lot of resources.”
In court on Monday, LaForge plead guilty to two counts of assault. While he had also faced charges of uttering threats and breach of undertaking, those were stayed.
LaForge will not serve any jail time, but was handed 12 months probation and was given a conditional sentence.
His conditions include keeping the peace, notifying the court and probation office of any change in employment or occupation, to not possess anything resembling a weapon, and to not publish or make publicly available on the internet any information about individuals targeted by the group.
A former member of the group, Lance Loy, on May 22 also plead guilty to assault in connection to the April 19, 2017 incident.
Also facing charges after the April 3 incident is Burnaby resident Kuljinder Singh Bhatti, 35. Bhatti is accused of trying to lure a minor for a sexual purpose and making an arrangement with a person for a sexual offence involving a person under age 18.
Bhatti’s next appearance in Vancouver Provincial Court is set for Aug. 27.
Since Surrey Creep Catchers’ inception, Surrey RCMP have cautioned the public against such work.
“Police want to remind the public that vigilantism, no matter how well meaning, poses significant risks to the safety of all those involved,” Surrey RCMP Corporal Scotty Schumann said last year. “Using our highly trained investigators in a controlled environment is the best way to get dangerous offenders off our streets and ensure they are held accountable.”
He said police advise the public to go to www. cybertip.ca to report incidents of online sexual exploitation of children.
Meantime, Surrey Creep Catchers made national headlines September of 2016 after a woman working with the group posed as a 15-year-old girl and allegedly communicated with an off-duty Surrey Mountie online after posting an ad on Craigslist.
A meeting was set up outside the Boston Pizza at Surrey Central Shopping Mall in Whalley and LaForge and his crew live-streamed the sting on the Internet.
Constable Dario Devic was arrested on Sept. 9, 2016 and suspended from police duty. Devic was then charged in October, 2016 and currently faces one charge of child luring. He is due in Surrey Provincial Court on June 4.
-With files from Tom Zytaruk