Xavier Von Erck, 27, of Portland, Or., makes a living catching online sex predators prowling for underage victims. He he’s not on a crusade to protect children; he doesn’t even like children, reports The Oregonian. “I just don’t like kids,” he said. “I’m not a kid person. I don’t like being around ’em; I’m never gonna have ’em. But I don’t like pedophiles more.” In 2003, Von Erck created Perverted-Justice.com, an online group of volunteers who pose as children or young teens in chat rooms and nab men who solicit them for sex. The group has gained fame through the prime-time NBC show “To Catch a Predator,” in which a “Dateline” reporter greets men caught in Perverted Justice’s stings after they arrive at a decoy house expecting to meet an underage prospect.
The group points to 140 convictions as a result of its work, yet Von Erck is a libertarian with a distaste for authority. He’s regularly interviewed by national outlets such as “The O’Reilly Factor” and The New York Times, yet says he doesn’t know what the public thinks of him or why some seem baffled by his ways. Critics say Perverted Justice is sensationalizing a marginal, perhaps even largely phantom, problem of online sexual predators. They say such stings might even create criminal behavior by luring men to act on fantasies that otherwise would have remained just fantasy. Other critics pose ethical questions about television journalists joining forces with police in the stings.