ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A Wisconsin citizen’s group is using sting operations to catch predators in the act of meeting with minors.
Now, they want to expand their efforts into northern Illinois.

The group is known as the Worldwide Predator Hunters, a group of citizen sting operators that aim to take pedophiles off the streets.

“We’re out here to keep these kids safe,” said Jay Pretty, the man who founded the group over a year ago. He says his team has exposed over 50 criminals through the use of online decoys.

“You get scared because you don’t know what you’re up against,” said Pretty. “It is a scary thing but I got to do what I got to do for these kids.”

The hunters begin by setting up social media accounts posing as minors, wait for someone with bad intentions to take advantage, then after inappropriate conversation occurs they set up a sting.

“They are free to go at any time that they want, they do not have to talk to us, we’re not law enforcement. We just want to talk to them about why they’re doing this kind of stuff,” said Pretty.

The group contacts local law enforcement in the process. In the past, officials have worked with the group, taken the tips or chose not to get involved.

“It can easily turn because they’re not trained in how far they can go and what they can do,” warned defense attorney Rene Hernandez.

He says civilian predator hunters are not constrained by the same laws as police, and while the group isn’t breaking any laws, it’s a job that should be left to the professionals.

“If you have good, valid, valuable tips, you need to turn them over to the police,” said Hernandez. “Law enforcement are the best people capable of conducting these type of operations.”

Anyone with tips about potential criminals are encouraged to contact Rockford Police.