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‘Superhero’ vigilantes – applaud or stop them?

"Take that, pedophile."

Dressed as Batman and other superheroes, young men in British Columbia have been luring alleged pedophiles into the open and exposing them in videos posted on YouTube.

But the RCMP have warned them to stop catching the alleged sex offenders, The Globe and Mail reported.

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The four would-be superheroes, aged 17, 18 and 20, posed online as a 15-year-girl to draw their targets into the open. The "gotcha" videos were removed from YouTube after police intervened.

In one video, two teens encounter a suspected pedophile at a restaurant in Chilliwack, B.C., wearing Batman and Flash costumes, the CBC reported. As the man leaves the restaurant, the teens follow, shouting: "This man right here is a sex offender."

Corporal Mat Van Laer of the RCMP's child exploitation unit said police are opposed to vigilante justice. "[They] put their own safety at risk by engaging with total strangers and confronting them overtly in public."

The superhero stunt could put others at risk, he added.

"We're dealing with potential sexual predators, people that have a deviant sexual interest in children. They have arguably now been aroused to a certain degree by a chat. … Depending on their state of mind, what if they do go out and run across another child and feel the urge to offend?"

The youth have reportedly mothballed their superhero costumes. Meanwhile, the crime-fighters' Facebook page has drawn attention worldwide – and copycats who posed as the superheroes in news reports about their antics.

"We never did this interview," the Facebook page's administrator wrote.

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Comments on the page, which had more than 2,300 "likes" as of Wednesday night, are universally positive.

"If your work makes these guys think twice about doing this again (and I am sure it will), then you've done more good than you can possibly imagine. Thank you," Branden Scott wrote.

Adam Sand encouraged the masked men to keep up the good work: "Do not buckle under the police. They just don't like that you have made a hobby out of exposing this filth and doing a better job with prevention than they are," he wrote. "There not one thing wrong with what you're doing."

Should the young vigilantes be applauded or stopped?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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