WI attorney general warns against vigilante actions

By  | 

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is discouraging people who are not law enforcement officers from engaging in vigilante activities.

Kaul issued the warning after an online vigilante group recorded an attempted sting operation in a public place in Jefferson County.

“Vigilante ‘sting’ operations are illegal, they put innocent bystanders in danger, and they can increase the chance that someone who has committed a crime will go free,” said Attorney General Kaul. “Law enforcement officers, in coordination with prosecutors, are best able to safely apprehend suspects and to ensure that someone who has committed a crime is successfully prosecuted.”

Kaul said there has been a recent resurgence in people from Wisconsin attempting to lure suspected online predators . He also noted referrals from vigilantes to a district attorney can face legal challenges in prosecution.

"While these vigilante groups are well intentioned, the cases created through such vigilante activity rarely lead to criminal charges," said Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ. "Law enforcement professionals have to complete strict training to learn proper techniques for these types of investigations, and they have the necessary experience to collect and preserve digital evidence. Citizens lack this critical experience and training, and the vigilantes’ actions may result in important evidence being destroyed, compromised or suppressed."

Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Children Bureau requests any suspicious activity be reported to law enforcement immediately. Tips can be submitted by calling 1-800-843-5678 or
on their cyber tip line.