FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Police work everyday to get child predators behind bars.
But what happens when someone takes that burden into their own hands? Turns out you don’t have to go very far to find out.
If you’re like thousands in the Myrtle Beach area, you may have seen confrontations pan out with accused-predators over Facebook live.
‘Grayson,’ who said he needs to stay anonymous to stay safe, says he’s become a voice for ‘a lot of angry, angry people.’ He started a Facebook page called PANDA Patrol Carolinas.
“Parents Against Not Doing Anything,” he explained. “The patrol part is the part of this quote, unquote movement that we’re starting, I guess.”
That movement involves ‘Grayson’ meeting up with who he says are would-be child predators and publicly shaming them — all for thousands to see online.
“I make a profile on various different apps that a lot of youths use today. And I wait for the people to start messaging me. And first few messages, I let them know my age and once they continue from there, it’s free game.”
Free game, ‘Grayson’ says, to plan a meet up in a public place after he poses as a teenager while messaging. A store, a gas station, hotel. And then call them out loudly and with a large online audience.
But why doesn’t he just leave it to the authorities?
“I have utmost respect for them, but they’re too busy. There’s too much going on,” he said.
“Going in and luring somebody to a public space, that’s relatively new to us,” Judi Paparozzi said. She’s an adjunct professor at UNC at Pembroke who teaches courses in criminal justice and human trafficking. She’s also a former prosecutor.
“I can understand his passion. It’s just, that’s not the right place to be,” she said. “He may be doing more harm than good. First of all, yes, he can be really happy that he was able to tell that guy off, but that guy could have been arrested by the police. They get the evidence legally and correctly. And so it can be used in court and severe, no evidentiary issues. So we can have a slam dunk.”
Paparozzi says there are other ways to help that don’t get in the way of authorities. “Prevention with kids is critical,” she suggested. “That is critical. Get the information out there.”
Glenda Skipper, the founder of One Child at a Time, agrees. “It’s easier to educate than it is to rescue,” she said.
Skipper works to do just that in the Pee Dee — educate. She saw the human trafficking crisis first hand while in India.
“Women and children, there were a thousand prostitutes and a two city block,” she remembered.
So now: “I go to schools, churches, and other civic organizations and educate on what human trafficking is,” Skipper said.
She’s educated over 7,000 kids in the Florence and Darlington areas. She wants families to know the signs and have the conversations.
“It starts with one conversation, one text, one tweet you know, predators go where the kids are and if kids are on social media apps, predators are too,” she warned.
Meanwhile, Paparozzi is concerned that human trafficking has only grown worse during COVID-19. “Because our children are home online all the time,” she said. “Now they’re doing their schoolwork online. They’re on their cell phones or on their tablets. They’re playing these games.”
She says there are many ways you can help. “We can become experts on human trafficking,” she said. “Go bring our messages to the schools, bring our messages to the church. Our kids are at a distinct disadvantage online with traffickers. These are the experts and they’re anonymous.”
The state Attorney General’s office told News13 in a statement that it appreciates the sentiment behind PANDA. The agency warned though that this type of thing could be dangerous and interfere with an ongoing investigation.