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Wisconsin AG warns against ‘vigilante justice’ for online predators

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin’s Attorney General is warning the public against taking matters into their own hands against online predators.

Josh Kaul calls it ‘vigilante activity,’ and he’s concerned about the impact it has on public safety.

These so called ‘vigilante acts’ center around groups or individuals going into chat rooms and setting up their own stings; trying to catch online predators themselves.

This is legal, however Kaul is concerned about where some people draw the line.

“It’s traumatizing to a child, and it will traumatize you for the rest of your life,” Johnny Pretty, three-year member of Worldwide Predator Hunters said. “I was molested when I was younger. I think it makes me feel a lot better if we are getting these guys or females off the streets, where they’re not hurting a real child.”

The nonprofit group focuses on finding and exposing child predators through online forums and social media apps. Members then turn those cases over to law enforcement agencies across the country.

“By contacting law enforcement people are able to make sure that appropriate le steps are taken, and arrests are made safely,” Wisc. Attorney General Josh Kaul said.

Kaul says though this is well-intentioned, he has concerns about some groups or individuals taking things too far.

“They could interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigations, because they could cause somebody who has committed crimes to switch online platforms,” Kaul said. “And they also put themselves and bystanders in danger if they’re trying to make arrests themselves.”

“I live with it on a daily basis,” Pretty said. “I don’t think a child should have to go through that. I will keep doing this until I die. So, we’re not going anywhere any time soon.”

There is currently a Worldwide Predator Hunters chapter in Rock County. According to Pretty, the entire organization has assisted law enforcement agencies across the country in making 40 suspect arrests and 30 convictions.

Again, the attorney general reminds the public these cases are best handled by local law enforcement.

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