What happens when citizens take justice into their own hands to catch predators? With new technology and new means of surveillance, social media justice has taken the place of old fashioned detective work in some places. Kyle Swanson, a former resident of Chicago, said he started catching pedophiles by accident back in 2016.
“A friend of mine, when I was in Chicago, texted me because I was well known on Facebook for doing pranks online, I did YouTube pranks a lot. She told me that some guy wouldn’t stop messaging her on Facebook after she kept telling him to go away. She said, can I give him your number and you can just mess with him and annoy him till he stops messaging?
I said sure, he texted me and this guy immediately started making sexual references. Eventually I was becoming annoyed with it, so I told him, I’m 14 years old, can you please stop talking like that, and yet he was still persistent in meeting up with me. I wondered how many more guys are out there like this? And that’s kinda how it started, it was sort of by accident and it has just grown since then.”
Swanson says his non-profit, strictly volunteer group KTS Predator Hunters have volunteers in Missouri, Virginia, southern and West Central Illinois, and Georgia. A new chapter is going to be starting in the Tampa, Florida area and Swanson says he’s currently in the proces of becoming a national non-profit organization. Currently, he says people in different communities donate money and equipment in the apprehension of child predators in the areas where they are active.
Recently, Swanson’s group helped to catch 27 year old Kyle D. Upchurch of Jacksonville down in Vandalia. Swanson says that Fayette County was one of a few local law enforcement officials who came out in support of his group when he first began catching predators with online accounts and live-streaming their capture online.
“At first police were not really cooperating with us. I did my first live bust on YouTube actually, and this was back in February or March. It got a few thousand views, and that is when a states attorney out of Madison County contacted us, and told us where exactly we went wrong, and what we could do to help more. So I started going by his rules that he set for me, then eventually I was doing these more and more, and police departments started getting a hold of me. They said they really like your work, you are doing it the right way, the legal way, and we want to see how we can get these guys prosecuted. And that is when the Fayette County States Attorney got involved with me, he said I want you to be pushing a lot of these meet ups towards here, and we can help you get prosecutions, so now a lot of other police departments are starting to work with us.”
Swanson says that social media has been the main vehicle for capturing sexual predators. Using a variety of platforms. In a typical day, Swanson says that he has several in the Jacksonville area that try to talk and meet up each day.
“I bet I could catch, 10 to 15 guys a day, just around this area, which is really sad and sickening. We focus on one guy at a time in the area. Right now we are talking to one guy, who this week we will likely be meeting up with along with local police departments. I’m not going to say any locations, but we are working for one right now. This guy is honestly probably the worst guy we have ever dealt with.
Swanson hopes that his group’s work will eventually lead to more captures and convictions of sexual predators down the line. Swanson says that Illinois law makes it difficult to prosecute some of those whom his group catches, but he hopes that at least the message gets out to the public that the people he catches are predators so they can protect children from harm in the future.