Over 10 years ago, NBC aired a popular reality series called To Catch a Predator, hosted by journalist Chris Hansen. The show featured sting operations, in which male adults who were caught pursuing underage people online were confronted by Hansen and arrested by local police. Now, a group of parents based in Lansing, Michigan seem to be producing their own, 2018 version of the series. Gathering under a Facebook page called "517 Child Predator Exposures," the group with over 7,000 likes that is conducting sting operations not unlike NBC's.
According to WRCBtv, "The group identifies suspected offenders and engage with them online, posing as someone underage. They report and post portions of the chat messages where several suspects have engaged with the 'decoy' and set up meetings in person." Once they encounter the suspect in person, they confront them on camera while airing the footage on Facebook Live.
Members of the "571 Child Predator Exposures" group are anonymous, but in the Facebook Live videos, they make a point to expose the suspect's face, name, and license plate number.
In response to concerns that the group may be interfering with law enforcement's efforts, they say they've met with their local police department and seen positive results. They also say they're careful to follow the law, only identify suspects after they've confirmed their identity, and do not involve anyone underage in their operations.
This may all sound fairly legit, but Facebook appears to have a problem with it. According to WRCBtv reporter Jamey Tucker, the "571" page was removed by the social network this week.
The group I did the story about Tuesday, "517 Child Predator Exposure" has had its Facebook page removed. Facebook notified the group earlier this morning. The group has appealed but the page is unpublished. See some of their posts here in our story. https://t.co/MKnrcicW4Z— Jamey Tucker (@JameyTucker) July 25, 2018
The parents involved in the group have filed an appeal to Facebook, requesting that their page be reinstated.
While the Facebook page's fate remains to be seen, Lansing locals appear to be grateful for the group's efforts, taking to the social media site to sing their praises.