SURREY — Nobody likes child molesters, probably not even the degenerates themselves. They are widely considered to be the lowest of the low and are very nearly universally loathed.
That said, how many people are willing to dedicate long days and nights to trying to weed out “potential predators” and “blast” them in social media?
Whalley resident Ryan LaForge, 33, says he’s trying to do just that as president of Creep Catcher Surrey, a new 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 police seem reluctant to comment on the movement, and defamation lawyers warn that some of Creep Catchers’ activities could well invite defamation lawsuits from those they target, chapters of the group are nonetheless popping up and collaborating with one another in Canadian cities from coast to coast.
“We have many outlets,” LaForge notes.
He’s been at it in Surrey for a little over a month and says he’s made 11 videos to date. Thousands of people have seen his footage online, through YouTube and Facebook.
The Creep Catcher Canada website has a legal disclaimer that states “all persons portrayed are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. We make no assertions to guilt and provide our viewers with content within the limits of Section 309 of the Criminal Code of Canada: ‘No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he publishes defamatory matter that, on reasonable grounds, he believes is true, and that is relevant to any subject of public interest, the public discussion of which is for the public benefit.’”
The Now recently did a sit-down interview with LaForge at a local shopping mall. He sat on a bench just a few strides from where he says he confronted one of his targets.
“I love this mall because it exploits them and shows that they’re willing to come out from the gutters,” he says.
How does it work? First, LaForge posts an online profile, or ad, on a number of websites, under the pretence that he’s a child under 16 years old, and waits for a bite.
“I feel sorry for these girls that are on these social sites because it’s just crazy,” he says. “You’re flooded; you’re getting pictures of wieners, and everything like you wouldn’t believe.”
He’s always posing as a child under age 16, he says. In Canada, that’s the legal age to give sexual consent, “which is pretty sad to me,” LaForge says. “It’s surprising how easily manipulated these children are. You don’t know what goes on in their lives, especially in this city. They’ve got broken homes, they’ve got drug-addicted parents. These young children are so vulnerable. They go on there looking for attention and the next thing you know, they meet up with a guy and they’re not coming back.”
The age of consent was raised to 16 from 14 years on May 1, 2008, under the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
As the replies come in, LaForge explains, “I bust out the age right away; I say I’m 14, I’m 13, whatever, right away, because that way it’s less entrapment.
“That’s the fork in the road; now it’s up to them,” he tells the Now. “They either take the right path, and they go on their merry way to their families or whatever it is, or the next girl of (legal) age, I don’t care. Or they go to the left, and they come into my world, and that’s when I start screen-shoting, I start saving everything. I’ll put them over to a text app, I’ll get their phone number if I can, I’ll run it through Facebook, I’ll run it through everything I can, and that’s when we do the information swarm. We get as much sexual innuendo from them as we can. Some of them are smart — they think if they don’t talk sexually and they meet up with a child, that it’s OK. That’s where they’re wrong…. In what world is it OK that a 13-year-old meet a stranger off the web who’s 40 years old, and for what, for friends?
“Once you go left, you’re mine and I don’t care,” LaForge says. “They’re basically stings, they’re whatever you want to call them, set-ups, lures, I don’t care.”
A meeting is then arranged, always in a public place.
“The reason for that is not my safety because, like I said, I’ll go anywhere, but what it does is it puts it in the public’s eye. Everywhere I go, I do a bust, there’s usually five people watching, and then I go up and tell them who we are and what we’re about. Our main thing is spreading awareness because eventually enough people are going to say enough’s enough.
“It’s not a joke, this is real life.”
The confrontations have got to be spine-jarring for LaForge’s targets.
He shows up with a cameraman, tells the bewildered target that he was the “child” the target had been communicating with online, and then lowers the boom.
“We call it blasting,” LaForge notes.
He tells the person the jig is up and that he’s going to out them on social media as someone who’s arranged online to meet up with a child.
It’s not all greasy eyeballs and trench coats.
“You get all kinds,” LaForge says. “There’s women, there’s guy-on-guy, there’s women-on-women. I myself haven’t busted a female. I have busted male-on-male. I don’t discriminate, I’ll go after anybody. We’ve got couples, you know, it’s everywhere.
“There’s no rhyme or reason for an adult to ever want to meet up with an underage child.”
LaForge says in one case he posed as a 15-year-old, and a guy wanted to take him, or the child he was pretending to be, out for karaoke and drinks. Out of 100 people who reply to him online, he says, maybe 70 will talk to him, and 30 will say no.
“So out of that 70 now, 40 will continue to talk to me, the other 30 will just dissipate or maybe catch on. Out of that 40 (who) continue to talk to me, 25 will meet up.”
So who is Ryan LaForge, anyway?
In a peculiar twist, the Now confronted him with his own criminal past and he seemed entirely unfazed. His chosen battlefield, the internet, is an electronic tableau of transgressions to which no one who has a disreputable past is immune, not even him.
“I did my time for what I did,” he readily admits. “I’m no saint.”
Online court records reveal LaForge’s convictions for mischief $5,000 or under (in 2005), failure to stop at accident with person (2005), breach of probation (2006), dangerous operation of a motor vehicle (2007) and possession of a controlled substance (2011).
But the big difference between him and his Creep Catcher targets, he says, is that he’s got nothing to hide.
“I’m an open book. What it boils down to is at a young age, I was thrown out of the house, I had nowhere to go. I grew up in Whalley, I went to West Whalley, so I had some friends with involvement in things, so I was kicked out, had nowhere to go, no cash, slept at a buddy’s house and, you know, long story short, I followed the yellow brick road.
“I lost my licence for 10 years,” he continues. “Two five-year prohibitions. I got a letter from the superintendent of ICBC stating that if I have one more dangerous driving infraction that they take my licence away indefinitely, you know, I made a lot of mistakes.”
His “mistakes,” however, are a far cry from sexually exploiting children. LaForge considers child molesting to be “satanic.”
“Anybody who is willing to do these things, it’s the devil at work,” he says. “I was a bad person, but that is on another level.”
Tired of doing the “typical Surrey hustle,” where, he says, “I spent a good chunk of my life learning what not to do,” LaForge decided his heart wasn’t in that any more, “so I decided to get out.”
“It’s not for me.”
He then took on a job as a construction safety officer, he says.
LaForge told the Now he has no personal experience with sexual abuse and that he’s not aware of anyone in his social or family circle who has suffered such a fate.
One day, he said, he read a news report about a man accused of raping a young girl the man had been babysitting.
“He was mad at his girlfriend, this was his excuse,” LaForge seethes.
“This story changed my life. That’s what’s out there. It’s got me speechless…. It just makes you want to give up on mankind.”
LaForge found Creep Catchers online and knew he’d found his calling. Asked if he thinks his criminal record might harm his credibility, he says he was upfront about it with Creep Catchers’ founder.
“This is my past,” he says he told him. “He said we’ve all got a past.
“I know in my heart that I’ve made changes, and anyone can change.”
LaForge says Creep Catchers’ slogan is “We don’t sleep,” and for good reason.
“It’s all day, it’s all night. At my house I’ve got blackboards on the walls…. You get swamped,” he says. “I live and breathe creep-catching. I slowed down my construction career to do this. You can’t take on a chapter like this, in this city, and think that it’s a part-time gig, because it’s not.
“I don’t sleep,” he says. “My family, they think I’m crazy; they say you need to take a break, but I just can’t. They don’t stop, so how can I?”
For their part, Surrey Mounties wouldn’t lose any sleep if Creep Catchers Surrey were to cease and desist.
“We don’t support that, vigilantism,” says Sergeant Alanna Dunlop, spokeswoman for the Surrey RCMP, adding, Creep Catchers’ public confrontations pose a “possible safety concern, I’d say for both (hunter and target).
“We recommend that police look after things like this.”
LaForge is not deterred.
Does he consider himself to be a vigilante?
“You know what, I’m proud to be a vigilante, if that’s what it is,” he tells the Now. “If it’s fighting for something that’s right.
“I believe that most of the cops out there would love to be doing this, instead of writing tickets or something like that,” he says. “So, as far as a vigilante goes, if it means someone standing up for the innocent, the weak that no one else will, then yeah, I’m a vigilante.”
As for the authorities, he says, “The police don’t even want to talk to me until one of these perverts contacts them and says this guy’s harassing me. And then I get a phone call. I mean, in what kind of crazy world do we live in?”
Sometimes, the confrontations get heated. LaForge says one guy jumped out of a van, kicked his phone out of his hand and tried to hit him.
“He attempted to hit me so I had to defend myself. I put him on the ground. I held him there,” LaForge says. “What good is it if I smash them out? I’d ruin the Creep Catcher name — we’re non-violent for a reason.”
The Creep Catcher Canada website also carries a disclaimer that the organization does not condone or endorse “any harm coming to these individuals, minus public shaming and outing.”
It continues: “Any such violence towards anyone portrayed in our content will be frowned upon and you may find yourself on our pages! Share the videos, share the posts, mock, name-call, point them out in public (make sure 100% it’s them though please) but to help us continue what we do, we urge you not to assault them or their property. WE SHARE YOUR DISGUST but violence won’t help! It’ll just let the haters have something to pick apart at.”
Asked if he fears for his own safety, LaForge notes that by Creep Catcher rules, there has to be at least one person with him; he can’t go alone.
“As far as fear goes, I fear for the children.
“I don’t fear anybody. I mean, what’s to fear? What’s the worst that’s gonna happen? You’re going to get hurt or you’re going to get killed. I’d rather just have this out there, that I’ll do anything, I’ll sacrifice my whole body if it means that everyone in the city, and every other city, sees what’s truly going on. Everyone’s focusing on shootings, don’t get me wrong, it’s terrible, a life lost. These are focused on what? On other criminals. Yes, there’s mix-ups and things like that, but everyone focuses on that life lost, what about the lives of children that are ruined and they have to live like that for the rest of their lives?”
During our interview at the mall, LaForge says he’ll be interviewing 10 people there that same day who want to help him. He says he’s looking for people with patience, restraint and those who are good listeners.
“People that aren’t scared. You’d be surprised at how many people are thumbs-up aboard.”
What would LaForge like to see from the police and courts, as far as Creep Catchers is concerned?
“Well, 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,” he says. “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?”
How long does LaForge plan on doing this?
“Until the government says ‘Here’s a badge, here is funding, hire out, I don’t ever want to see a pedophile in our city again.’”
Asked if he’s concerned one of his targets might commit suicide in response to the social media “blasting,” LaForge replies, “As cruel as this may sound, I don’t care, I just don’t. It’s like that old saying you’ve made your bed, you lie in it. I mean, what am I, going to start catching feelings for guys that I know that are willing to do sexual activities with an underage child? As far as I’m concerned and, again, as crude as this may be, let ’em all do it. It makes my job a lot easier.”
And what about lawsuits? Is he worried about being sued over his Creep Catcher activities?
“No, sue me,” he shrugs. “I’ll go pro bono.
“I mean, I don’t have anything to sue, what are you going to sue me for? Especially with the proof that I have, why would you want to? I don’t just take anybody; it’s not just a coincidence, I’m not there by coincidence. You don’t have me at your front doorstop by fluke. You’ve done something wrong, and I have the evidence before I do it. It’s not just like a surprise, it’s not a guess like, ‘Oh, that guy might be one, so I’m going to roll up on you.’ I know who you are, you’re at the right place at the wrong time, you’re done, and so sue me. You’re going to go to court and all it’s going to do is publicize us and what we do even more.”