Jackson County prosecutor warns against vigilante investigations

By Mitchell Banks and Aubrey Woods| The Tribune
For The Republic

SEYMOUR — A couple of vigilante incidents in Jackson County in recent days has created concern from local law enforcement agencies.

Details of those incidents have not been released by police, but they did issue a news release about the dangers of vigilante behavior Wednesday afternoon.

Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant said law enforcement is aware that “vigilante” individuals have conducted “pedophile sting operations” in which a non-law enforcement citizen entices another person, typically using social media, by posing as an underage girl or boy.

The vigilante citizen then convinces the target to appear at a public place, records the encounter, confronts the target, accuses the target of being a child molester, and posts their “investigation” on social media.

Chalfant said there have been several reports of such incidents in southern Indiana and the rest of the state.

“We want to investigate and prosecute sex offenders, but we don’t want the public doing it,” Chalfant said. “It’s extremely dangerous, they don’t the know the law and don’t have the training.”

He said a sting operation also could result in violence, injury and death.

Chalfant, who issued the release along with Sheriff Rick Meyer, Seymour Police Chief Bryant Lucas, Brownstown Police Chief Tom Hanner and Crothersville Police Chief Matt Browning, said he could not discuss the reported “pedophile sting operations” in Jackson County because no case has been filed with his office.

He said the prosecutor’s office would not file criminal cases based on investigations conducted by vigilantes.

One of the local incidents was posted on Facebook and that prompted the law enforcement response, Chalfant said.

Seymour Police Department also issued a news release which said the department has had several questions pertaining to online groups regarding child solicitation accusations and videos.

“We at SPD make every effort to pursue these accusations, however, the manner in which some of these groups operate create unique issues regarding legal prosecution and the due process of criminal law.”

Chalfant said the public should also contact police if they have information regarding a crime so that a law enforcement-based investigation can be conducted into the matter.