It’s become a cliche’ of dumb-criminal stories: perv hooks up online with child, arranges to meet for sex, ends up arrested when “child” turns out to be undercover cop. It keeps happening over and over, and it seems the perverts never, ever learn from each others’ mistakes.
Apparently to some people, though, the cops aren’t doing (or aren’t being allowed to do) enough. So folks are stealing a page from the police and arranging their own cyber-stings, pretending to be underage and trolling for kiddie-diddlers online themselves.
Some law-enforcement officials are concerned. They worry that the vigilantes could end up endangering themselves, or at the least imperiling prosecution of the pervs, as they could very easily cross the line into entrapment.
This is a tough call for me. On the one hand, I have a bit of a fondness for vigilantism. I grew up reading comic books, and I think we all have an obligation to look out for each other, to be vigilant for criminal activity, to deal with some problems ourselves instead of simply shrugging and leaving everything for the cops. Lord knows I’ve done a few things in my life that could be considered vigilantism, even crossing the line once or twice into being on the wrong side of the law.
But there is a difference between being watchful and actively seeking to find and confront criminals. As a general rule, that should be left to the professionals. There are certain areas where government needs to maintain a monopoly in order to survive and prosper, and law enforcement is one of those.
I think it would be best if those who stalk the stalkers would go back to the original meaning of “vigilante” — “one who watches” — and simply observed, and did not seek to become a participant.
In the meantime, though, that means that there’s yet one more thing for child molesters to worry about out there as they seek their prey, and I happen to think that’s a good thing.