Concerns over vigilante tactics luring potential predators

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Police are warning of major safety concerns following one man’s efforts to expose suspected sexual predators through online videos.

The unnamed young man, whose YouTube channel is called “Anxiety War,” poses as a teenager online, lures suspected predators into meeting him at locations in Grand Rapids and then captures the tense confrontations on camera.

It has helped lead to criminal charges against seven suspects.

While some members of the public seem to support what he’s doing, police and prosecutors say it’s all a really bad idea.

“Basically our comment is, don’t do it,” Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Becker told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.

“I would say, ‘Your heart’s in the right place, but your methods are wrong,’” Special Agent Blair Babcock with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security added.

Some would argue it’s for the public good — that’s what the video-maker claims — and there’s no doubt he has guts.

But officials say it’s downright dangerous. In one of the videos, the vigilante confronts a suspected predator and says, “I know you have a gun. Don’t do anything stupid. I’m armed, too.”

“You don’t have any idea how violent someone is going to get if they think their life is going to be destroyed,” Babcock warned.

And police already have special teams working these cases.

“When they (police) go out and do it, they go as a team. They have five, six officers because of how dangerous it may be,” Becker said.

The concerns could stretch to the courtroom cases.

“It almost certainly would lead to a potential court battle over whether it’s entrapment or not — even though we’re not asking a person like that to work for us,” Babcock said. “The other (concern) is just the admissibility of the evidence.”

Several attorneys told 24 Hour News 8 the situation is unusual and could make for ‘sticky’ court cases.

Becker said he isn’t concerned about the validity of evidence. He said Grand Rapids police conducted their own thorough investigation, including interviews, after receiving the videos.

While the vigilante isn’t breaking any laws and isn’t facing charges, prosecutors discourage his methods, saying it sends the wrong message.

24 Hour News 8 tried contacting the man behind the videos again on Wednesday. He still hasn’t responded to repeated efforts to reach him.

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