CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — In Clearfield County, child predator cases are being dismissed due to Pennsylvania law and one group — “814 Pred Hunters” — hopes the laws can be changed.
The 814 Pred Hunters have been acting as 15-year-old decoys online only to meet these alleged predators, confront them, and call the police for nearly a year.
The man behind the group, Brian Knepp, sat down with WTAJ’s Tristan Klinefelter and said the purpose of the group is to catch these individuals before they might actually hurt a child.
“What we’re attempting to do is catch these individuals prior to them actually hurting a child or in some cases stop them from hurting a child that they’re already hurting,” Knepp said.
After nearly a year of operation, these “catches” are resulting in charges dropped because of the way the law is written in Pennsylvania, saying that only law enforcement can pose as a minor in these instances.
“We have to follow the law as it is written by the legislature, signed by the governor,” Clearfield County District Attorney Ryan Sayers said. “So at this point, the way the law is written, it is not written to allow vigilante or outside groups to do this, these kinds of activities.”
The 814 Pred Hunters said they hope the laws can change and they can continue to assist law enforcement.
“Try and work with the DAs and judges. Try to come up with a solution to where, you know, we can get these guys prosecuted one way or another. There has to be something out there.”
Brian Knepp, 814 Pred Hunters
Sayers also added that they can’t allow “vigilante justice.”
“What else would we permit somebody in the general public that has no training, no firearms training, no interrogation training, nothing at all, and no liability insurance if anything goes wrong or happens to go out and do these kinds of activities,” Sayers added.
In Blair County, however, officials took a different approach to these types of predator-hunting groups.
“We took a different approach in Blair County, I think, in several other counties,” Blair County District Attorney Pete Weeks said. “We did not make any arrests on scene on the word of the groups themselves. What we’ve done is independently investigated those claims. We’re going to develop the level of proof that we need to make an arrest and to be able to sustain a conviction.”
In the end, law enforcement and officials want to protect children and do it the right way so no potential predator gets a “get out of jail free” card based on a technicality.
“Obviously, these people out there that are trying to prey on children, I don’t support them. I wish that I could prosecute them,” Sayers said. “I think what they’re doing is terrible and we have to do what we can to protect children.”
According to the Child Crime Prevention and Safety Center, there are an estimated 500,000 online predators active each and every day.