FREMONT, Ohio – Police in Ohio say a group of fathers posing online as teen boys seeking sex with older men are not helping police to bring potential predators to justice.
The Dads Against Predators (DAP) group has posted three videos online, including one Tuesday showing a man being confronted by a group of men with camera phones asking why he is meeting a 14-year-old boy at a Walmart in Fremont.
Two other videos have surfaced, though Fremont Police Chief Dean Bliss said at a Thursday press conference that because these meetings were not arranged by police, the suspects are not likely to be prosecuted.
But Bliss said the DAP videos showed police how easy it can be to trap men looking for sex with younger boys.
"We were shocked as everyone else after watching these videos," Bliss said Thursday. "Unfortunately, they brought a brighter light to this current situation to which I do not believe is a Fremont, Ohio-only problem."
Acting Sandusky County Prosecutor Zak Selvey said there is "significant" evidentiary concerns about these videos being used against the suspects.
"For a crime to occur, there's a statute in Ohio called the importuning statute which is what we believe cases like these fall under, and it creates issues if the person involved is not a law enforcement officer or actual minor child," Selvey said.
In each of the three videos, the vigilantes posed as 14-year-old boys to get the suspects to meet them.
One of the suspects was detained by the border patrol on charges of evidence tampering, though Bliss declined to say if those charges are related to the video.
Bliss said the other two videos are being investigated.
"I want the investigations to be done correctly and to be prosecutable if the case were to go to trial," said Bliss. "I assure you, we will do something about this problem."
Asked whether the group did good by bringing vigilante justice to Fremont, Bliss said he would not encourage citizens to take matters into their own hands, saying it can jeopardize the safety of those conducting the operation and cause issues when attempting to prosecute suspects.
Though it does not appear that the group members committed any crimes, Bliss said the videos and stings do not help police in their efforts to catch predators.
The chief said if any citizens were to come across potential sexual predators they should contact local law enforcement so operations can be carried out in a safe and lawful way that results in convictions.