A mason worker living in Calgary with three pit bulls, Raymond occasionally apologizes for becoming "overheated." Just thinking about child predators, it seems, never ceases to make his blood boil. And the feelings are shared by millions of fathers, grandfathers and big brothers across Canada who feel our police are not doing enough.
Raymond assures us he takes a cooler approach when posing as a 13-year-old girl on popular dating sites. As the ringleader of a growing team of vigilante pedophile hunters, he wants to make sure "nobody does anything stupid."
"We're not trying to set people up," he says of the To Catch a Predator tactic. "We don't ask anybody to meet us... we wait for them to talk to us."
In September of last year, Raymond started confronting these men at malls and fast food joints with cameras rolling, later posting the videos and chat logs online. Between his Facebook page and branded "creep catchers" website, the videos can rack up thousands of shares and hundreds of thousands of views. As you can imagine, the project is a polarizing one. Some commenters tell Raymond and his team to let police do the "big boy job," while others call him a national hero.
He says he learned the technique from watching Justin Payne, a Mississauga Ontario based vigilante who has confronted more than 150 alleged predators. But it's Raymond that has brought an entrepreneurial spirit to that cause, helping start up chapters in Victoria, Nanaimo, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, and Regina. New chapters have also been set up in Halifax, St. John and Toronto with other cities inquiring how they can join.
Calgary police are familiar with Raymond's work. Media have asked them for reaction enough times that they now have a prepared unattributed statement: "The Calgary Police Service is aware of the incidents that have been alleged by Mr. Raymond and is actively investigating these complaints," it reads. "The Service in no way advocates a citizen taking police action into their own hands and conducting their own investigations."
The statement goes on to say pedophile hunting is dangerous and puts both vigilantes and their loved ones at risk—something Raymond readily admits. He knows that some of his targets will try to retaliate, and he makes sure his fellow team members are prepared for the same.
"I'm making sure they're soldiers," says Raymond of his vetting process. "I'm not just bringing on any flimsy, joe-blow guy."
Some of them work in oil and gas, others in warehouses, though none have a background in law enforcement. "We come from all walks of life, but we all have one general thing in common: we don't like these fuckers," quips Raymond.
He's also wary of naïve copycats: "The last thing I need is some little kids going out and doing it themselves."
So, Raymond keeps a tight lid on his organization, making sure all the videos and chat logs are put in the hands of appropriate law enforcement officials. His site even includes a legal disclaimer: "All persons portrayed are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law," it reads. "We make no assertions of guilt and provide our viewers with content within the limits of Section 309 of the Criminal Code of Canada."
"Everything goes through me before it's published," he adds. "Even from my other teams, because I make sure it's good."
What law enforcement does with the evidence, Raymond says, isn't clear. According to Calgary police, Raymond's public-shaming method can actually interfere with investigations. "If evidence is not collected or submitted to police properly, the suspect might not be charged or convicted," reads the police statement. "Without a charge or conviction, there is no record of the offence or court orders to prevent the suspect from having unsupervised contact with children in the future."
But canned statements like these don't seem to deter Raymond. In fact, he claims that most police unofficially support what he's doing. "I've talked to a lot of police. On the record, they're telling me I can't do it... [but] off the record, they all say not to stop and keep going."
Raymond's motivation comes from a deep anger at the Canadian justice system's inaction on child predators. In his eyes, there aren't enough investigations to begin with, and there certainly aren't enough pedophiles in jail.
"They protect them by giving reduced sentences, like fucking two months—it's a joke," he says. "What I'm doing is making sure people know who the fuck these people are."
Risky or not, Raymond shows no signs of slowing down his cross-Canada mission to out pedophiles. "I started doing this and I'll die doing this."
I confess to admiring Dawson Raymond. I agree law enforcement is too lenient on pedophiles. Waiting for stiffer legislation is not helping children who are being molested and assaulted as I write this. The police have their hands tied by the standing laws. They cannot venture far from those restrictions. And Mr Raymond speaks true when he says police officers encourage him off the record. They feel the same way that he and his followers do but are hobbled by legalities and reduced to inaction.
Is vigilantism ever a good idea? Does it show disrespect for the law? Or does it fill a gap in the judicial system that desperately needs filling?