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Sandusky sheriff calls Dads Against Predators 'reckless', threatens prosecution

The sheriff said while the group is well-intentioned, its methods can be dangerous and leaves law enforcement unable to prosecute potential predators.

FREMONT, Ohio — The Sandusky County Sheriff's Office sent out a warning Monday, explaining that vigilante groups like Fremont's Dad's Against Predators (DAP) can actually cause more harm than good.

Earlier this year, the group had videos go viral, in which they would lure alleged child predators to meet up and expose them live on video.

RELATED: Fremont police chief asks Dads Against Predators to stop vigilante videos

The aim of DAP is to raise awareness of the dangers of children chatting and/or meeting up with adults they met online. However, law enforcement officials said they are aware of these issues in the community, and the methods used by DAP can create hazardous and potentially dangerous situations in community settings.

"I want the people to know that we are doing something and we are combating the problem. We do appreciate what DAP has done to shed light on what is a very serious issue. But we're asking them to please allow us to do what we do," Sandusky County Sheriff Christopher J. Hilton said. 

According to Hilton, the way these DAP "operations" are handled leaves law enforcement unable to criminally charge them. He said that the potential predator is then able to walk away without repercussions for what they intended to do. 

The sheriff said the group has educated actual predators on ways to not get caught in the future. 

"All you've done now is create an environment for them to get better at not getting caught. You've created an environment of okay, I know what to do so next time I'm not going to get caught by these people. And furthermore, they're not going to stop," Hilton said. 

"We told them the obstacles of why we can't charge people when they're doing it. Unfortunately, they would give us information on cases that they had been working on. We had been given edited information," Fremont Police Chief Dean Bliss added.

The sheriff issued a stern warning to the group, telling members to step aside and let officers do their job.

"Local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors of Sandusky County and the City of Fremont cannot and will not sit back anymore and watch as DAP continues to parade its form of vigilante justice," Hilton said. "Its intentions may be well-intended, but their methods and outcomes are improper and unacceptable. The 'exposed' individuals may be exactly what DAP says they are, but they also may not be. DAP's careless and reckless regard for law and order and due process has resulted in the loss of life, and the situation has gotten out of hand." 

Hilton went on to say that if DAP continues its vigilante efforts, they may be forced to prosecute them.

But a member of the group said their work is making a difference. 

"I've worked with other police departments and gotten arrests with other videos and stuff like that, so them telling me it's not possible doesn't sit right with me," Joshua Mundy said. 

Despite law enforcement agencies' threat of charging Dads Against Predators with menacing if they continue trying to bust people on their own, the group said they plan to keep protecting children. 

"As long as I'm within my rights and not doing anything illegal I'm not going to stop," Mundy said. 

"See for yourself if you think they're bad guys or good guys. If you think we're doing it wrong or right. Don't let me tell you we're doing it right, don't let police tell you we're doing it wrong. I feel you should make a decision for yourself," Mundy added.

Authorities are now putting together a task force that will be trained and dedicated to fighting the problem of child predators. 

"We have limited resources but this is an important issue and one that we are attacking straight on," Hilton said. 

For individuals in need of mental health and trauma-related services, please contact the local Mental Health and Recovery Services Board at 419-448-0640. 

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