NBC's To Catch a Predator

Hi everyone.

I’d like your opinions on something. You know that series of investigative stings on Dateline called To Catch a Predator? If you’re unfamiliar with it because you’re not from the US, it’s about catching sexual predators over the internet who try to seduce under-aged kids. I’d like to post up links to those videos on YouTube but I thought it might be best if I don’t; they’re graphic and I don’t want kids to see them, but if you’d like to view them, Google search for “To Catch a Predator.” The first link will take you to the NBC website with video coverage of it; the third link will take you to some Youtube clips.

Their m.o. is basically this: through internet chatrooms, they find adult men who try to meet underaged teens to have sex with them. They pose as those underaged kids, rent a house, then invite those men to visit them so they can do their thing. They come into the house, Chris Hansen, a journalist from Dateline NBC, comes out to confront them. They leave, and are apprehended by the police.

I’m somewhat indifferent as to whether or not this is wrong, but I’m leaning toward believing that what NBC is doing is wrong in the sense that they sort of take a quasi-police role but do not live up to the policing legal responsibilities of fair justice. Though the Dateline team is by no means an actual, official, legal dispenser of justice, it does assume that role in attempting to dispense justice and exposing these cases. It calls itself a news magazine programme, but in reality it doesn’t report the news – it makes the news. In doing that, in its self-appointed role as a dispenser of justice, it makes the punishments against those crimes unequal.

But then again, we could argue that having a show like that on TV would help compel potential predators to stop it because now they have the possibility of extra punishment in the form of humiliation. I don’t know if this holds water though: first of all, the threat of being humiliated on TV isn’t a strong threat – they only make a few of these programmes so one might think that the chances of being caught is very remote; secondly, many of the people who were caught in those investigations already knew of Dateline’s sting operations yet it didn’t prevent them from doing what they did. They confronted one guy thrice within a couple days of doing these things, so one could argue that it doesn’t do as much to prevent these things as we’d like.

Some things you might consider negative:
-It’s questionable as to whether or not this programme serves as a preventative measure against potential sexual offenders; as I said above, many people they caught were aware of the show and had seen it.
-Since they classify themselves as a news programme though, they don’t need to censor the identities of the men they catch; the breach of their privacy, therefore, is an added punishment these men get; other men who commit the same crime, without the television coverage, are not subject to the same level of punishment, and thus (you might argue) violates the Constitutional protection against the cruel and unusual.

Some things you might consider positive:
-One of the people caught was a teacher whose students were roughly the age of the teenagers he was pursuing
-One guy whom they caught had guns in his car
-One deputy sheriff was caught and had what is described as a “weapons arsenal” in his car
-One guy whom they caught actually brought his 5-year-old son with him
-Some of the guys who were caught brought drugs with them
-At least one of those guys admitted that he wants to do this with underaged girls because he thinks they’re more “pure” (yeah, it’s gross, isn’t it?)
-The guys who are caught may be sent to prison (some don’t), but all those convicted need to register as sex offenders (although we could also argue that the sex offender registry is unconstitutional and unfair, that’s another whoppingly large topic for another time)

Other point to consider
-Some people think that these offenders suffer from mental illness that compels them to commit these sorts of crimes. It certainly would explain why one man was caught three times within a couple days of doing these things (it was before they began to work with law enforcement, so he wasn’t arrested yet, though he later was for other crimes of an indecent nature). It could also explain why some of the offenders they catch already were well-aware of the programme and have seen it, yet that didn’t prevent them from trying it themselves. One could argue that this show, therefore, is aimed in the wrong direction – perhaps it should work on rehabilitation rather than televised punishments that may not even be effective.

There have been objections posed by journalists, but I’d like to hear what you think as Catholic morality students. What do you think about To Catch a Predator: ethical or not?

I honestly don’t know as I don’t watch the show and therefore don’t know what it is like.

Actually, I don’t think Dateline sets this stuff up. There is a group that does, and Dateline just sets up the cameras and records the “arrests.” I think that there was one man on one of the programs who, when he saw Chris Hansen, took off. He’d seen enough programs so he knew what came next.

As long as it helps takes these people off the streets, I’m all for it. Oh, let it be said that Dateline has nothing to do with “justice” being practiced. Just because there has been these shows it doesn’t mean that this group isn’t out there still trying to catch these men. What is filmed is a small part of the program.

It seems objectionable to me because they are lying to the men they apprehend, and lying is always wrong, no matter to whom.

Dateline films the activity of an organization that has been working with law enforcement for years. This is not entrapment, as these men already had the intent to commit the crime.

What I would hope that this show has done is make American parents aware of the internet and the dangers of allowing their children to hole up in their rooms and chat online for hours a day. These creeps are out there trolling, just waiting to find an innocent child who doesn’t know enough not to engage in conversation with them.

My thoughts exactly. :thumbsup:

I don’t believe that for a second.

Is it wrong for an undercover police officer to lie to a suspect by posing as a hit man when the suspect is trying to hire one to kill his wife? Would it be wrong to lie to the nazis about the location of jews that you were hiding?

The adult men that are apprehended are already on the INTERNET searching for a victim. They just get caught by a watchdog group - Perverted Justice- is all. The intent is already there to chat with a minor and engage in illegal acts.

Now these perverts are crying foul? Ha! How many get away with this daily?

Trust that if Chris Hanson were not sitting in the room, the under aged girl would be raped. (The show does use legally aged woman as decoys by the way).

Yes, and yes. Aquinas says so explicitly in the Summa Theologica. Good intentions aren’t enough by themselves to make an action good. The action has to be good first. If it is evil, then no amount of good intentions or good ends will make it ok, because the ends do not justify the means. And Satan is the “father of all lies.” All, not just some.

I think it’s a positive good.

These are sexual predators, and this is helping get them off the streets. It also teaches people of the dangers facing kids today.

To me it’s the same a a buy and bust operations with narcs.

As the old saying goes, if you can’t do the time (including being exposed on TV) don’t do the crime.

God Bles

I think it unethical for police (local, city, or state) to trick the public for any reason. I don’t think speed traps, prostitution stings, drug stings, child porn stings…are ethical for government to practice.

In the case of this particular show, others have said that it is a private organization/citizens working with the police and the tv show tags along. I have no problem with that.

If the police were initiating it I would have a problem with it.

Law enforcement does not step in until after the predator has entered the house where he thinks he will meet an underage person for sex. When the predator leaves the house, that’s when the police arrest him. The intent to act is clear as soon as the predator enters the house at the invitation of the “minor”. The police can’t arrest them for just chatting on the net, or even for driving to the house, it’s only when they enter.

That’s a fair point, but there have been exceptions to that. In some cases, men came but were afraid to enter the house; they still were arrested. One case had a lawyer who communicated with a supposed-minor (a sting operator in disguise) but didn’t go to meet her; a swat team went to his house to apprehend him. It didn’t work though: he killed himself before being arrested. But I guess that’s beside the point that not all of the men they catch were caught in the same fashion you described above.

This has been discussed on here before. The following thread lists my view as someone that actually use to help out as a Human Shield with Perverted-Justice.


I stopped because I couldn’t stand dealing with the filth.

I can see what you are saying with prostitution stings, drug stings, and child porn strings from the point of saying someone is “lying.”

But how does a speed trap fall into that category? How is someone forced to speed? How are they lied to?

You can make an argument if there are no signs up, but beyond that, you have no arguement.

The police cruiser could hide at the bottom of a hill, and/or the speed limit could chance without warning.

I think it depends on the laws of the state they’re in whether they can apprehend before or after entry. Most of the shows I’ve seen they haven’t approached until after the guy leaves the house.

Actually, I believe that differs from state to state. In some states, even just chatting on the internet about this is illegal.


In a way, I think it’s wrong to set people up, but then I also think…if these men weren’t up to doing something wrong in the first place (hurting kids) then, there wouldn’t be a need for this. I think that it shouldn’t be considered society’s new form of entertainment…watching people get embarassed and arrested. That part I find to be wrong. The sting operation isn’t the wrong part, it’s more that they get tv ratings by exposing men on tv, and ruining their reputations. That is not necessary to ‘catch a predator.’ I think that reality tv, when it comes to prison shows, COPS, etc…is really our modern day version of the stockades, when people would be embarassed in front of their town…

But, we must think what would have happened is this wasn’t a sting operation…and these kids were sitting there waiting on these men to arrive. That’s a downright horribly scary thought!!:frowning:

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