Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan State Police are warning that vigilantism won’t be tolerated.
The warning comes after an increase in the number of reports of citizens taking the law into their own hands targeting child sexual predators.
Recently a resident of Grand Rapids was told that police won’t be able to prosecute cases based on information he gathered in trying to expose a suspected child predator.
The vigilante behavior included luring a suspected online predator into a public place and recording the interaction. Videos of the sometimes-violent interactions were posted on social media.
“It is reckless and dangers for residents to take matters of law enforcement into their own hands. Not only does it put them directly in harm’s way, it actually hinders our ability to keep our kids safe and protect them from dangerous individuals,” said Nessel.
Nessel said although they may be well intentioned, the vigilantes put themselves in danger, and may cause important evidence to be kept out of any potential trial.
“I strongly urge the public to leave this work to career professionals,” said Nessel, adding that 250 child predators have been convicted in Michigan since 2011.
Michigan State Police has a specially trained task force that handles investigations into child predators.
The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force follows strict guidelines to make sure that evidence is collected so cases move forward.
“Taking matters into your own hands is dangerous and extremely harmful to a successful prosecution,” said Lt. James Ellis, commander of the MSP Cyber Section. “Vigilantes also open themselves up to civil litigation and criminal charges when acting outside of what laws allow.”
WNEM reported on separate incidents last fall involving the vigilante group 989 Child Predator Exposures. Though the incidents ended in arrest, MSP warned that taking matters into their own hands is dangerous.
Parents are urged to talk to their children about internet safety. A list of resources is available here.
Anyone who sees suspicious activity should report it to law enforcement. The Cyber Crime Tip Line is available here.