Social media and dating apps are filled with a shocking amount of child sexual predators on the hunt for victims, according to a man who tracks down pedophiles on the dark corners of the Internet.
“This is a situation that’s happening every day, all day, everywhere, every minute, every hour,” he told Fox News Digital under the condition of anonymity. “If I can tell you that I can go catch someone at 4 a.m. and this individual doesn’t even bat an eye or ask why I’m not sleeping to go to school tomorrow, they’re more worried about having sex.”
The source runs a successful enterprise called People v. Preds., which documents on its social media accounts and in videos each suspected pedophile who allegedly tried to meet up with a kid for sex – only to realize they’ve been communicating with a grown man. The project was launched in 2021 after its founder said he watched similar groups successfully nab suspected predators, and decided to launch his own enterprise in California.
The pursuit of catching creeps is massive, and the predator hunter said his group has exposed 354 individuals, which has resulted in 110 arrests and 17 convictions. His work began in Southern California’s San Diego area before expanding north to cities such as Costa Mesa, Long Beach, Sacramento, and Las Vegas.
The source said he goes about catching predators on dating apps by impersonating an underage boy. He explained that mimicking how a teenage boy talks and messages is far easier for him than impersonating a young girl.
“The hotspot that I’ve found has been Grindr,” he said of the gay dating app, though he denies targeting the gay community.
“I cannot target anybody other than predators. And if they happen to be on an app where I discuss an age and they continue a conversation and get sexual, then they’re no different than a predator,” he said.
Dating apps restrict children from joining, but some predators go through the sites looking for accounts that claim to belong to someone 18 or older, to see if it’s actually an underage teenager.
“Grindr takes the prevention of minors being on our platform seriously, and we run a number of programs to help our users stay safe,” a Grindr spokesperson told Fox News Digital of the app. “…The Grindr app is for adults only, and all users must attest to their age before opening an account. Use of our app by anyone underage is a violation of our terms of service and we ban accounts that violate those terms.”
“Grindr is in the most age-restricted category on both Apple and Google Play App stores, which means that the app is subject to the device’s parental controls.”
The spokesperson added that the app allows users to easily report illegal activity, such as minors on the app, and that the app reports activity involving minors to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Grindr also utilizes a 150-person team to identify potential underage users and predators who may be targeting such minors.
“People message me,” the source continued explaining of how he interacts with men on the app. “I let them know that I’m underage – 13, 14, 15 – within … the first couple lines of the conversation, I don’t try to, the term would be, ‘make a predator.’ I let them know I’m underage pretty quickly, and the conversation either stops or continues and we go from there.”
If the conversation turns sexual, the source continues messaging with them and ultimately sets up a meeting spot where the suspected pedophile allegedly intends to have sex with the presumed teen.
That’s when the source reveals himself as a grown man – all while his cameras are rolling.
“So lately, I’ve been trying to involve the police beforehand so that I can ensure an arrest. And so how that would basically go is: I have a planned time in place for the individual to come and meet, and that’s where the elements of the crime are occurring. So, the first element of the crime would be just communicating sexually with who they believe to be a minor, which in the state of California is against the law and a felony. And then arranging and going to a meeting with sexual intentions with a minor, which is also a felony,” the source said.
He said that he has only encountered male suspected pedophiles, though similar citizen groups have busted women – who he said typically work as teachers or are women in “relationships” with youths.
People v. Pred’s operations have netted a wide array of male professionals stretching from teachers, a school psychologist, nurses and a postal worker. Just last week, the source posted his latest bust video that led to a conviction: 55-year-old former San Diego County Sheriff’s Sergeant Luis Rios.
Rios pleaded guilty in October to one count of contacting a minor with the intent to commit a sexual offense, stemming from the People v. Pred’s operation. The source explained he posed as a 15-year-old boy on Grindr and was contacted by Rios.
Amid the conversations, the now-former sheriff’s sergeant even took a photo of himself wearing what appeared to be his official uniform.
“He sent the photo in like our brown-colored sheriff’s uniform and this is a verification photo,” the source said, explaining photos are often exchanged to verify a suspected predator’s identity. “… I send a picture with my tongue out to get them to send me a picture with their tongue out. Or I send a picture with like three fingers up, in hopes they send a picture with three fingers up.”
“So now I know who I’m talking to on the other end. And if I go show up to somebody, I know what I’m looking for. And they can’t be like, ‘Oh, that was my friend using my phone,’” the source explained.
On March 11, 2022, according to video of the scene, the source confronted Rios in a McDonald’s parking lot. The source said he spotted Rios pulling into the fast-food parking lot as he was exiting his car, and watched as the law enforcement official looped around the McDonald’s multiple times before parking.
“In the moment, they try to come up with the best thing they can,” the source said of how the suspected pedophiles react when they realize they have been caught.
“‘I’m here waiting for some food,’” Rios claimed after the source confronted him, the source recounted. “I’m like, ‘if you’re waiting for some food, then you’d be going in to go get some food and not in your car.'”
Messages between the sheriff’s sergeant and who he believed was a 15-year-old boy show that the law enforcement officer was open to “teaching” the teenager what he was into sexually.
“You don’t even know what you are into,” Rios wrote to one of the source’s decoy accounts, according to the video posted to People v. Preds’ Rumble page.
“Are you gonna teach me,” the decoy account responded.
“Possibly,” Rios said.
“Why u being scarED lol?”
“Lol guess,” Rios responded.
“Idk lol. I’m not gonna say anything. Our secret?” the source pretending to be 15 said.
“Lol Do you want to meet up on Monday or lol,” Rios said.
Rios was sentenced to one year in prison, a $10,000 fine and up to three years of parole, local outlets reported in October.
The source explained he faces hurdles from law enforcement and the justice system amid his work, including what he says was light sentencing for some of the convicted men he busted.
“It’s unfortunate that the criminals aren’t getting prosecuted or having the penalty of such. Out of the … 17 convictions, you have two that are on a prison term. Two that have actually [gone] to prison.. And everyone else is jail time. But it’s not just jail time, it’s the time they served in jail. It’s what you’ve already done,” he said.
The source said that in order for real change to be made with child sex crimes, the justice system must “enforce the penalties that are applied to the laws that they’re already breaking.”
He said that those convicted under California Penal Code 288.4 (b), a law that makes it illegal for an adult to arrange a meeting with a minor with the intent of engaging in sex, they face one to four years behind bars. He said that first-time offenders of this law, however, are given “a slap on the wrist” as opposed to those with criminal histories.
“Out of those convictions, only two people actually are doing a prison term, and that’s only because they have a quote unquote, prior history. So the court sees a first-time offender as a good person. The court sees someone that doesn’t have a history is, ‘Oh this guy didn’t rape a guy last year, so he’s just raping kids for the first time? Oh, let’s just get a slap on the wrist,'” he argued. “We actually have to hold the penalties to the crimes that people are being charged with.”