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LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan State Police (MSP) are sending a strong message to residents who are targeting suspected child sexual predators: vigilante activity will not be tolerated.
A vigilante’s recent behavior in the Grand Rapids area has escalated and demonstrated reckless conduct, including luring suspected online predators to a public place, recording the sometimes violent interactions, then posting the videos on social media, according to the Michigan State Police. Authorities have told the vigilante, and others like him, they aren’t able to prosecute any more cases based on information gleaned by this method.
“It is reckless and dangerous 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,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “In fact, well-meaning vigilantes not only endanger themselves, but their actions may result in important evidence being suppressed, impeding our ability to properly and effectively do our job.
“Our office vigorously prosecutes crimes against children with our partners at the Michigan State Police, which has resulted in keeping hundreds of child predators out of our communities. I strongly urge the public to leave this work to career professionals.”
Nessel added that her office has charged more than 20 individuals who have targeted Michigan’s kids since January, including a child predator ring in Coldwater. The Office of Michigan Attorney General has also successfully convicted more than 250 child predators since 2011.
The MSP Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force has highly trained, certified law enforcement investigators assigned across the state of Michigan. They work under strict guidelines put in place by the ICAC Task Force to crack down on child predators.
“Our priority is always public safety,” said D/F/Lt. James Ellis, commander of the MSP Cyber Section. “Taking matters into your own hands is dangerous and extremely harmful to a successful prosecution. Digital evidence collection, for example, has strict rules that must be followed for a case to legally move forward. Vigilantes also open themselves up to civil litigation and criminal charges when acting outside of what laws allow.”
The MSP Computer Crimes Unit and ICAC Task Force requests any suspicious activity be reported to law enforcement immediately. Tips can be submitted online using the Cyber Tip Line at http://www.missingkids.org/cybertipline.
Parents are encouraged to speak with their children about the safe use of the internet. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides a comprehensive list of resources on their website at http://www.missingkids.org.