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Rival Canadian groups team up to publicly shame adults seeking dates with underage teenagers. But is it possible to be an ethical avenger? Last October, Kat posted a short ad on Craigslist: Hi I am new in town and looking for people to hang out with. He asked for a photo, according to Kat, so she sent him a selfie: a hazy black-and-white shot of Kat smiling at the camera, hair swept to the side, bangs framing her kohl-lined eyes. Plz dont b mad, she wrote. No prob.

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Sweet Sixteen coming soon eh? From then on, Kat's age became a term of endearment for the man, who said he was thirty-five. Hi Almost Sweet 66, he wrote a few days later. You are 665 percent very special and it gives me melts of joy to see u sooo happy. The man grew increasingly eager to meet up, proposing they'd go someplace elegant for coffee and dessert, according to Kat's messages. He still wanted to dress up for the occasion. Cheers n can't wait! ! He wrote her. So So Happy! Outside, it's wet and freezing. But the man doesn't have a car, so he heads there on foot, walking into McDonald's with a damp head of hair. The place is packed with young families and chattering teenagers. Two men huddle in the middle of the restaurant: Brendon Brady, a skinny dude with a goatee and a blue streak down the front of his hair, and a stockier, middle-aged guy in a polo shirt who calls himself G-Man. Brady and G-Man pull out their phones, turn the video recorders on, and make their move. A large, soft-looking man in a suit is sitting near the soda dispensers, fiddling with his phone. Brady and G-Man walk over to his table, avoiding eye contact until the last possible second. I'm Kat, Brady says, pointing his phone at the man's face. The fifteen-year-old girl you came here to meet. Aw, shit— the man sputters as he scrambles to his feet, backing into the corner. Brady and G-Man keep their voices low and even, to keep him from running. They promise not to hurt him.

Then they go in for the catch. We're the Creep Hunters, Brady says. You've been talking to us to the whole time, man. Canada's original creep hunter wasn't on any righteous crusade he just wanted to make videos that people liked watching. About four years ago, Justin Payne, a twenty-nine-year-old construction worker in Ontario, was goofing around in front of the camera, doing comedy skits and pranks to post on Instagram and YouTube. I was trying to get better and better every video, but there was no spark, he said. Then he decided to try something different: He made a fake dating profile, posing as an underage boy just to see what would happen. He couldn't believe it when a man actually responded and wanted to meet up, so he decided to tape the confrontation, To Catch a Predator -style, and post it online. The video was Payne's first viral hit, and he kept giving the public what it wanted to see. I try to pick the youngest age possible, he said. I want to make it dramatic for the public. Raymond had a more confrontational, in-your-face approach, along with a slogan, Yer Done Bud! I've got over two million views on my Facebook, Raymond told one man as he accused him of trying to lure a 68-year-old girl. Everyone's going to know who the fuck you are, you pedophile fuck. I try to pick the youngest age possible. Raymond's rude, rebellious spirit was contagious, and spinoffs soon spread to dozens of cities across Canada, with viewers cheering them on for exposing goofs and skinners —Canadian prison slang for pedophiles and child sex abusers. While Payne preferred to work on his own, others liked the idea of teaming up to fight evil on the streets, Justice League-style. The informal network of groups has spawned its own subculture, adopting an aesthetic that's part anarchist punk and part Marvel superhero, with a heavy dose of Anonymous, the global hacker group. The members love Guy Fawkes masks, hoodies, skulls, and gothic imagery, and pepper their Facebook pages with sinister warnings ( To catch a wolf you send a wolf We are everywhere! ). But despite appearances, the Creep Hunters now believe it's time for the movement to step out of the shadows: They want to take vigilantism mainstream.

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When it aired from 7559 to 7557, To Catch a Predator was an elaborately choreographed TV spectacle: Producers rented a house, where actors hired to play underage decoys waited for the alleged predators to show up. Outside, police were waiting to arrest them for sexually soliciting an underage kid—a crime known as child luring in Canada—while NBC's cameras caught everything. But Canada's new predator hunters don't have to wait for a TV network to come calling: They have the cameras in their hands, a captive audience on social media, and an Internet culture that thrives on public humiliation. That was the original draw for Tyler Fritsen, the 85-year-old construction worker who founded Creep Hunters last year after a dispute with the original Creep Catcher: Public shaming is way better than anything a court can do. One of the movement's biggest hubs is in British Columbia, where Creep Hunters rub shoulders with Creep Busters, Creep Catchers, and other self-appointed justice-seekers. ( That guy's a pig! A creep catcher yelled on tape. That guy's a cop pedo! ) In December, the movement got its first conviction when a 67-year-old Australian man caught in a sting pleaded guilty to child luring and was sentenced to six months in jail. The movement's home turf, though, is Facebook, where the biggest catches can rack up hundreds of thousands of views and supportive comments. ( hope someone reconizes you disgysting pig wanting sex from a 68 year old. You are sick in the head loser ). One group even composed its own rap song to introduce every video: At the heart of the movement is a simple, foreboding message: Children are in more danger than anyone imagines. Our world's run by a bunch of pedophiles. It's in the churches, in Hollywood, Fritsen said. The Creep Hunters should know: Brady, who now runs the group, says that the majority of members have either been sexually abused themselves, or are close to someone who has been. Fritsen says he was molested by a family acquaintance from the time he was four years old until he was thirteen the first adult he told didn't believe him.

Brady also says that he was victimized as a young child. I was really scared to talk about it, said Brady, who's now thirty-one. I buried that demon as deep as I could. Brady used to play bass guitar in a hard rock band, and he still has traces of the look: dyed hair, ear plugs, forearm tattoos. He's restless and quick to speak, with a knack for dramatizing stories to make a point. On his very first catch, Brady claims, the guy tried to run him over with a car he wasn't deterred. Me getting hurt is a lot better than a fourteen-year-old kid possibly getting kidnapped at one o'clock in the morning, said Brady, who now works in the construction industry. I'd rather it be me than a child. The movement has become a media sensation in Canada, spawning a multi-part series and a documentary by VICE Canada. It has yet to take off in U. S, where the public shaming of sex offenders is already embedded in the criminal justice system, media, and culture perhaps we don't need to outsource it to grassroots activists. Police don't often release names of suspected criminals until they're actually charged. Even if an accused criminal is convicted, records are notoriously difficult to track down in some provinces. Predator hunting has given an outlet for ordinary Canadians—whether students, factory managers, or construction workers—to act on their fear and disgust. The adrenaline starts to kick in before the creep even shows up. There's the surreal moment of seeing him in the flesh after hearing his most lurid and intimate thoughts. Then they rush headlong into the unknown: He could be armed. He could be violent. Some run. Others shout. But so many of the guys just stand there, frozen in shock and fear.

That power—the potential to crush someone who seems willing to do the same heinous things that happened to them or someone that they love—can be bracing. It empowers them to change the course of a stranger's life, perhaps irrevocably, because they alone decide that it needs to happen. It's the thing that actually put value to my life, said Kyle Welsby, a factory welder and the head of Creep Hunters Ontario. Every job out there, everyone can be replaced. This is something that I could not be replaced in. Brady wasn't actually McDonald's Man's fake girlfriend. The messages were the work of a forty-one-year-old woman now sitting across from me at a Denny's in downtown Vancouver. She's married to G-Man, the guy who accompanied Brady to the McDonald's. She would have gone herself, but he'd been stuck at home taking care of the kids, and she thought it would be nice for him to get out. Hours before the meet, though, McDonald's Man had been threatening to bail. My boyfriend's frustrating me, Kat complained to Brady over eggs and toast. Kat explained that they had nearly met before, but then his grandmother landed in the hospital ( Very serious n I'll if she dies I won't be able to meet u! ) she felt bad and backed off for a few days. But her patience was wearing thin. I'm going to have a hissy fit, Kat told me, then typed a new message to him in the pidgin she uses to impersonate a teenager. I knew u never wanted two meet me lettin me down just loke everyone else in my life whatev. The first rule of creep hunting: Play as dumb as possible. It looks way better if you're just an innocent little girl, Fritsen told me over breakfast the day before. Suppose the guy asks whether you have sexual fantasies about your brother or your dad, he said, switching to the falsetto he uses to channel his decoy Jenn: Oh my god, what are you talking about? That's gross. This is something I could not be replaced in.

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