Surrey’s best-known vigilante Ryan LaForge is undeterred by criticism from the police, B.C.’s public safety minister, law professors and lawyers that organizations like his Creep Catcher Surrey can do more harm than good.
The 33-year-old Whalley resident says public support for what he’s doing – posing as a child online, luring out “potential predators,” meeting up with them in a public place and then “blasting” them on social medal – continues to grow.
“Let’s take it to a vote,” LaForge told the Now. “We made the New York Times. Like, obviously, we’re doing something right.”
LaForge is the president of a local chapter of a Canada-wide online movement that, according to its Facebook page, “focuses on the apprehension and media publication of predators spreading awareness about an ongoing epidemic, pedophilia.”
While defamation lawyers have warned that some of Creep Catcher’s activities could well invite lawsuits from those they target, chapters are nonetheless popping up and collaborating with one another in Canadian cities from coast to coast.
Since the Now first introduced LaForge and his chapter to local readers on Aug. 11 (“Meet Surrey’s Creep Catcher”), he and his crew of six regulars and 10 associates “in the wings” have produced roughly 90 videos of their so-called “stings,” drawing thousands of views online.
Last week, Creep Catcher Surrey ignited a media storm after his crew live-streamed a video sting in Whalley that led to the arrest of a Surrey Mountie.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” LaForge said.
“I feel like I’ve got the weight of all of Surrey on me right now.”
The arrested Mountie, at this time of writing, has not been charged with a criminal offence but is expected to appear in provincial court on Oct. 19.
He was arrested last Thursday night following allegations of child luring and sexual exploitation that arose out of the Creep Catcher Surrey video sting.
The accused has been suspended from duty, police revealed in a press conference the following day.
“I want to be very clear that if the allegations are substantiated, we will be immediately taking steps to separate ourselves from this individual,” Assistant Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr, acting commander of the RCMP in B.C., said of the accused.
“These allegations are egregious and not in keeping with what we expect of our employees. There is no room in the RCMP for this kind of behaviour or individual.”
See the Now’s in-depth story on LaForge below, where he discusses his stormy relationship with police and questions what the government is doing to protect children from pedophiles.
“I don’t like putting the police down but we are doing something they are not doing,” he said.
“Without the people, without the supporters and everything, we’re nothing. Realistically, if we had as many people saying we’re doing bad as they’re saying we’re doing good, it would be impossible to do what we’re doing.
“I’ve never doubted the public once. We have so much support. Like anything, there’s haters and naysayers and things like that. Huge, huge following – we have so much support.”
‘The community wants their city back’
As police, politicians, professors and lawyers spurn efforts to publicly shame suspects, public support for local vigilante group – especially in light of officer’s arrest – is steeling Ryan LaForge’s resolve
Surrey’s Creep Catcher Ryan LaForge says he doesn’t like to slam the police but his frustration with the Surrey RCMP is almost palpable.
The feeling is clearly mutual.
Authorities had been reticent to speak about his organization’s vigilante practices after he set up his chapter in Surrey earlier this summer. But in more recent days the gloves came off.
Mike Morris, B.C.’s Public Safety Minister, told the CBC that Creep Catcher is “treading in some pretty dangerous territory.” University of B.C. law professor Benjamin Perrin is quoted in the Vancouver Sun that “the end doesn’t justify the means,” and RCMP Inspector Tyler Svendson, officer in charge of the Behavioural Sciences Group, told reporters at a press conference in Surrey Friday that the RCMP “can never be involved with an organization whose main objective is to publicly shame people. We just can’t be involved with groups like that.”
“When groups like these get involved they actually take longer for us to investigate so they make us less efficient.”
LaForge, 33, of Whalley is the president of Creep Catcher Surrey, a citizen group that aims to weed out “potential predators” and “blast” them in social media.
Ironically, Svendson (pictured) was speaking at a press conference that would not have happened had LaForge’s crew not conducted a sting that led to the arrest of a Surrey Mountie, who at the time this story was written had not been charged with a crime.
The age of sexual consent in Canada was raised to 16 from 14 years on May 1st, 2008 under the Tackling Violent Crime Act. A woman working with Creep Catcher Surrey posed as an underage girl and allegedly communicated with the officer online after posting an ad on Craigslist. A meeting was set up outside the Boston Pizza at Central City shopping mall in Whalley, LaForge’s crew live-streamed the sting on the Internet and the officer, whose name and rank has not been publicly released, was later arrested.
Asked if police had already had the accused officer under investigation prior to the Surrey Creep Catcher sting, Svendson replied, “I’m sorry, I cannot comment on this particular officer.”
He is expected to appear in court Oct. 19.
As for the accused officer, LaForge said, “I don’t think he was on anybody’s radar.”
He said he knew their target was a cop before they went in.
“That’s why we went live,” he said of his video. “We went live to ensure our safety, to ensure no one could say, ‘Oh, it was altered,’ or anything. What you see is what you get.”
LaForge said his reaction, when he learned his target was a cop, was “Let’s not blow it. It was a week-long sting. Our decoy, she had been working him for a week long.”
He said he didn’t consider contacting the police to let them know they were hunting an officer.
“He could have just disappeared, and been tipped off by somebody. They could have tried to take it over, and who knows? We didn’t tell anybody. We didn’t tell some of our own catchers.”
He said he was “of course” disappointed to learn his target was a cop, but not surprised.
“I’m actually more disappointed with our judicial system and how their actions and everything, responses are now. I mean, we catch a cop after being told to leave this to the cops and the first thing they do is go live and publicly shame us, saying we publicly shame.”
INNOCENT COP’S NAME USED
Assistant Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr (pictured), acting commander of the RCMP in B.C., said the Surrey Mountie was arrested Thursday night following allegations of child luring and sexual exploitation and that the accused has been suspended from duty.
According to Section 172.1 of Canada’s Criminal Code, governing internet luring, the Crown must prove an accused “believes” the person he or she was communicating with was a minor. A person found guilty of luring a minor on computer is “liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than ten years,” the code states.
Butterworth-Carr noted that after Creep Catcher Surrey live-streamed its sting commenters on social media wrongfully named an innocent man as being involved.
LaForge issued an apology but said he never mentioned the man’s name.
“An apology isn’t for my guilt, an apology is for genuine sincerity of feeling bad for someone who was brought into a situation that he was not involved in.
“As far as people making comments and things? I have no control over that. All I can do is when I see it, I can, I’ve made a statement that if it’s not coming from myself, then it’s not, if it’s not coming from us then it’s not real, it’s not true.”
‘IT’S ABOUT AWARENESS’
At the press conference, Svendson noted that police “have a team of professionals who work covertly online, day and night, that are looking for individuals trying to lure children.
“In this instance a group did identify somebody and we got involved late, after the public shaming, which is a wrong time for police to get involved. We want the public to notify us immediately. Especially if it’s a person in authority, or a person with access to children and is a severe risk to those people. We want to save children and we need people to call us immediately, not wait until a public shaming is done.
“Their objective is to public shame people,” he said of Creep Catcher Surrey. “Our objective is to arrest, charge and successfully prosecute and obtain convictions on all of these files,” he said.
But LaForge takes umbrage with that.
“We shame them but our intent isn’t to shame, it just comes across that way,” he said. “When you’re in a public place and you’ve caught someone who is doing what they are doing, shaming is basically what you’re doing when you’re telling them they’re not supposed to be doing that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“Our main mandate is public awareness. We’re not there to get an arrest. I mean if we can make that happen it’s a plus, and it’s great.
“It’s about education and awareness for our community and the families here,” LaForge said. “I don’t care what the police say, I don’t, because what are they doing? They’re burning their own, they’re just looking stupid, like, realistically. They’re saying ‘Oh,vigilantes’ and ‘They’re doing more harm than good, blah blah blah blah blah.’ Here we are, letting people know.”
(A screen grab from a Creep Catcher Surrey video shot outside Central City Shopping Centre. The man seen running away is allegedly a Mountie and has been arrested.)
On Creep Catcher’s role in the case involving the unnamed Surrey officer, Svendson said, “I want to make it clear that police are the ones that were called that night after the public shaming.
“Police officers are the ones that get the evidence,” he said. “We’re the only ones that are authorized under the Criminal Code to execute a search warrant, for example. These groups cannot do that type of work. So they may initiate the complaint, but it’s the police officers, the trained police officers, that get the evidence that leads to the charge.”
If the officer is indeed charged, and then convicted of a crime, would that legitimize Creep Catcher Surrey as a legitimate investigation tool?
“Good question – the answer is no,” Svendson replied.
“Our objectives are clearly different.”
Asked what’s different in this particular case involving a police officer, where a swift arrest has been made, and other cases where people have been targeted by Creep Catcher Surrey, Svendson replied, “Sorry, I can’t comment on ongoing investigations.”
Asked if, to his knowledge, the RCMP is investigating other people Creep Catcher Surrey has targeted, LaForge replied, “They have said they are. They’ve asked me for info; I’ve given it to them. Then there’s excuses, ‘oh, we need a different way, blah blah blah.’”
“All my files are in their hands,” LaForge said. “It all boils down to we’re making them look bad, in their eyes and the public’s eyes. I don’t look at it like that. I say it’s like lighting a fire under their ass. Like just, you know, do more.
“I’ll admit, I have a couple cases where they’ve been hounding me for the information. I’m jumping through hoops for these guys, I’m taking time out to give them information that they then tell me is not good enough.”
If charges are laid against the Surrey Mountie, LaForge said he expects to be called as a witness. Whatever the case, he says, “I’m going to be at every single hearing.”
“I believe God has a path; we got him just in time. With my whole heart I believe that we got him just in time before some, a real child was hurt by this man.”
‘GOOD FOR SURREY’
In other Creep Catcher Surrey news, LaForge told the Now about some of the perverts his group has encountered. The details of their sick fantasies, too disgusting to be published in a family newspaper, were sufficiently horrible to turn his girlfriend off her lunch during our interview Tuesday afternoon at a Whalley restaurant.
After last week’s sting, LaForge said, he was banned for three months from Central City shopping mall, where he was first interviewed by the Now in August, and conducted some of his stings.
“I’ve been warned several times about busting creeps there,” he explained. “And so I listened, I was really good. I did a CBC interview on the side of the brew pub, on the sidewalk there, and then as soon as I was done security came out and told me, ‘You’ve been warned about filming without permission, and here’s a three-month ban.’”
For him, it’s part of the package.
“If anything, this is a good thing for Surrey,” he said of his activities. “Here’s something positive – there’s a group in Surrey that takes time out of their lives every day to go and weed out pedophiles. That’s a positive thing. I just don’t know what our government is doing, I really don’t.
“Something has to give. The community wants their city back.”
“They’re taking our money and telling us what to do, what we can’t do, yet their not doing what they promised to do, and that’s protect us,” he said of the government.
“They’re releasing pedophiles and molesters and rapists on the regular. How many reoffenders are going to be let go and re-housed in communities where there’s children. I don’t get it, I really just don’t get it. They’re not dangerous enough?”
LaForge said he gets phone calls every day from people telling him to “‘Be careful…you’ve kicked the hornet’s nest on this one, watch out.’” But if he’s worried, he doesn’t look it.
Will he’ll stay the course?
“Of course,” LaForge told the Now. “I’ve never felt better about doing anything in my entire life.”