Sgt. Sarah Knelsen of the Lloydminster RCMP detachment during a press conference at 10 a.m. on Aug. 1. GOEFF LEE LSS PHOTO
Vigilantes who try to publicly out persons they suspect of trying to sexually exploit children could find themselves on the wrong end of the law.
That’s the case for Chase Brian Karnes, a 22 year-old so-called creep catcher from Marsden Sask.
Karnes faces three criminal charges after trying to identify and videotape an innocent Lloydminster man he accused of trying to meet with a young boy.
RCMP Sgt. Sarah Knelsen held a news briefing at 10 a.m. on Aug. 1 at the Lloydminster detachment, in an attempt to dissuade others from taking the law into their own hands.
Knelsen said RCMP work in conjunction with various police agencies across Alberta and into Saskatchewan in order to investigate child sexual exploitation.
“The RCMP asks the public if they feel a child is being sexually exploited to contact their local police agency and advise them of the situation,” she said.
“At no time do we encourage any member of the public to take on this activity on their own by going out and try to stop people on their own accord from committing offences in relation to child exploitation.”
Knelsen noted some times people acting on their own can actually hinder an ongoing police investigation, and it has been known to have happened in Alberta in the past.
She added Karnes is an example of someone the RCMP believes may have been involved in trying to “capture” a person they believe was involved in child exploitation.
“In the end, it did turn out that he (Karnes) is the one facing several criminal code offences at this time,” she said.
Karnes was released on Recognizance with court conditions and will appear in Lloydminster Provincial Court on Aug. 28 to face charges of common nuisance, criminal harassment, and mischief.
The charges were laid after Lloydminster RCMP were advised of a collision that occurred around 10 p.m. on July 22.
According to the police report, the victim advised police that an unknown male approached him outside a restaurant earlier that night and started videotaping him and accusing him of trying to meet with a young boy.
The victim immediately jumped into his car and was able to get away, but a vehicle driven by a man later identified as Karnes followed him for a short distance.
Once stopped, Karnes allegedly blocked the vehicle and demanded he step out.
The victim, fearing for his safety, backed up hitting a parked car, but was able to flee the area and call police.
The suspect was identified by a witness to the hit and run, and a video posted to a Facebook page.
Karnes is reportedly a part of a group that calls itself Creep Catchers.
By definition, creep catchers attempt to prevent child sexual abuse by posing as minors, using chat rooms and dating sites to lure adults willing to meet the minor for sex, and then exposing the adult by publicly posting videos of the incident.
Knelsen didn’t know the exact mechanics of how they operate, and said since she’s been in Lloydminster for the past year and a half, the detachment has only had a few instances or reports of creep catchers locally.
“I just know that I can tell the public, leave the investigations up to the police,” said Knelsen.
“That’s what we’re here for, and if you have any information in relation to somebody you believe is doing sexual child exploitation, contact your local police agency.”
Knelsen also touched on the possible traumatizing consequences for wrongly-accused victims if photos or videos are taken by creep catchers and posted online.
“They haven’t been tried in a court; no charges have been laid against them, yet their face is popping up in media, social media and their name is all over the place,” said Knelsen.
“Of course, it’s going to have some negative consequences with them within our community and within our greater area.”