Facebook group tries to expose potential child predators

PORTLAND, Mich. — A group of people in West Michigan is taking the law into their own hands. They are armed with cell phones and social media and they say they are protecting your kids by confronting alleged child predators.

"517 Child Predator Exposure" is a Facebook group that uses a decoy pretending to be a child online. They then set up a meeting with the person wanting to meet them and broadcast it all on Facebook.

One of 517's videos shows a confrontation from New Year's Eve that happened in front of a McDonald's in Portland, Michigan and it's gotten a lot of comments and shares online.

The person in the video has not been charged with a crime related to child sex abuse, but they have been arrested for violating their parole, which was for third-degree child abuse.

The encounter included this exchange:

517: OK, so why are you meeting a 14-year-old child?

Man: That's something I should take care of, for my own safety. I am sorry.

517: You sent provocative pictures to a child.

Portland’s police chief found out about the video by someone who saw it on Facebook.

The Ionia County Prosecutor says the 23-year-old was arraigned on Friday, charged with violating probation for child abuse, as well as sending illicit photos to a person he thought was a minor. He has not been charged with soliciting sex from a minor.

This all happened after his probation officer wanted to meet with him.

Portland police say they are investigating the case and caution citizens from confronting anyone like this.

“I would discourage anyone from actually doing this and encourage them if they have a suspicion that there is a child predator, that they alert Child Protective Services or law enforcement,” said Portland Police Chief Star Thomas.

The suspect is currently in the Ionia County jail, no bond has been set.

Chief Thomas encourages parents to be watchful of what their children are doing online.

The prosecutor who would be handling this case, says if Portland police file charges, the 517 Facebook video could possibly be used as evidence if it goes to trial.

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