MotorCity Justice group confronts alleged predators, despite police warnings

Image 1 of 3

It has been considered catfishing for a cause by some.

Perpetrators of reckless stunts that could lead to injury or worse, by others.

Powered by a volunteer, DIY ethic using social media, the MotorCity Justice. Facebook group could be To Catch a Predator for the 21st century.

Group members set up fake profiles on dating apps, respond to conversations with other profiles and reveal themselves to be underage. At a scheduled meet up spot, the team sets up with cameras and stream the encounters, exposing the person as a potential predator.

Text logs with a dummy phone and profile photos with information about the person are then shared to the Facebook group - all to teach an important lesson, the group members say, both to the potential perp, but to community members and to parents to watch their childrens' devices.

"They always contact us first, we never initiate contact we try to get them off the app and onto a decoy number - it shows a second form of intent," said a MotorCity Justice member. "We go through the phases, all the way until the sexual talk. We never engage in any of that and we go all the way to the meet-up which shows a third form of intent.

"Everything in the chat logs becomes reality when they show up at that meet spot. And in my mind, that is the ultimate dirty. That’s what’s wrong, you showed up. Regardless of what your intent was. This is a minor; they can't consent to anything."

The MotorCity Justice Facebook group has done 22 "exposures" in the past two months and has about 4,000 followers on both its Facebook group page and regular page. The team says that it was inspired by similar groups online from around the country, even internationally. 

The usual confrontation video starts outside the meetup. The approach then includes getting the suspect on camera, asking them why they are there and then "asking questions I already know the answers to."

The MotorCity Justice member said that the approach to confrontations is to be protect the rights of the suspect and themselves, by recording it - adding they are free to go at any time.

"A lot of people say this is dangerous, you could get hurt they could shoot you, they could stab you," the group member said. "Okay, you are exactly right but that is the chance we take walking out of our house every day.

"I figure the calmer I am, the calmer they are going to be in the situation. The last thing I want is an altercation from any of these guys."

Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Mike Shaw says safety is a huge concern for everyone involved - adding the information can't even be used. 

"One, we can’t use anything that they develop. Two, it’s flat-out dangerous, it is amazing that someone is actually going to some of these places by themselves confronting somebody," Shaw said. "They are very lucky so far that somebody hasn’t assaulted them or killed them." 

Attorney General Dana Nessel has cautioned online groups like MotorCity Justice, having addressed a group on the west side of the state recently with the same concerns.  

Shaw said that the evidence is not actionable because it is coming from a third party, adding that if anything it may be helping the suspects who are going to use more caution the next time they are actively pursuing someone underage online.

"If you think about it, you are accusing somebody of a serious crime that could end up making you go to prison," he said. "We are doing the same operations but we are doing it legally with law enforcement agents not just a couple guys off the street."

The group says that it has one case that is being investigated by the Wyandotte Police Department, with the detective requesting to look at evidence. The group also strongly encourages followers to leave the suspects' families alone as well as not reaching out to their employers, either.

"We want to be transparent, Wyandotte police is the first department that has really reached out," the team member said. "(But) If the police are not going to do anything about it, I am going to keep on exposing these guys to prove that the monitoring they have on these people - especially sex offenders is not working. 

"These guys are Tier 1, 2, 3 sex offenders trying to meet up with kids still and no one is doing anything about it."