SURREY — Police are again discouraging vigilantism after announcing that a 48-year-old Surrey man has been charged with luring a child online.
Police say George Torresani performed a sex act on a web cam for a fictitious 13-year-old girl. He was arrested at his home on Aug. 9 and a search warrant was executed.
Torresani is charged with luring a child and transmitting sexually explicit material to a person under the age of 16. He has been released on numerous conditions limiting his access to children and his use of the Internet, pending his first court appearance.
Police say the bust is one of numerous cases investigated by the BC Integrated Child Exploitation (BC ICE) Unit’s Online Covert Investigations Team (OCI). The OCI is a group of sex crimes investigator who seek to “identify, engage with, and subsequently prosecute the worst of the worst offenders – adults who are looking to meet children on the internet for a sexual purpose.”
The charges come after a Surrey chapter of Creep Catchers has been making headlines in the region. Creep Catchers is a national group that aims to weed out “potential predators” and “blast” them in social media.
Thousands of people have seen Surrey Creep Catchers footage online, through YouTube and Facebook.
Sergeant Hernan Topacio, who heads up the BC ICE unit, has “serious” concerns with this kind of “vigilante phenomenon.”
“The police do absolutely recognize the need to pursue individuals who look to prey on our children. However, given the tremendous risks for public safety should these vigilante confrontations go horribly wrong, or for the true predators to walk away without being prosecuted, this is a job that should be left to the police,” said Topacio in a release.
“We acknowledge we have a common goal with vigilante groups in identifying child predators,” he added. “Having been in the BC ICE team for a number of years now, I know from experience that perpetrators will not stop targeting children simply by being identified publicly through social media or other means. The greater focus needs to be placed in identifying and rescuing victims and ensuring that perpetrators are not able to victimize further. Any effort should certainly extend beyond just the initial public identification.”
The BC ICE warns that the public should know the law is strict with regards to how these types are investigated – and what evidence is required for a successful prosecution. Crimes must be reported to police and the complainant should be prepared to assist police by providing a statement and any evidence contained on electronic devices, as well as online accounts used.
In a recent exclusive interview with the Now, Surrey’s Creep Catcher Ryan LaForge said he wishes police would work with him.
“The police, I want them to step their mandate up and have a change so they’re allowed to contact us and say, ‘Hey, we want your evidence.’ Not just because someone’s complaining,” said LaForge, who claims police don’t contact him until one of the targets contacts them claiming harassment. “What kind of crazy world do we live in?
“As far as the courts go, I want them to stop looking at it like it’s just like a job. I want them to see that it’s life. We’re talking about children. I don’t know if it’s the justice system, I mean it all boils down to our government, what’s wrong with our government? What’s wrong with our government that they can see this is happening, that the justice system is releasing these guys?”
The BC RCMP asks that if you are aware of any incidents of online child exploitation, you report it to your local police or through www.Cybertip.ca.