NJ video vigilante not ready to stop after sparking child-predator bust
After a recorded, face-to-face confrontation with a Lacey resident led to criminal charges for the accused child predator, the civilian who filmed the video says that he is not ready to stop exposing predators.
Rashawn Bass, a resident of the Toms River area, said in the more than three months that he's been seeking out potential pedophiles on social media apps, and then sharing the chats on Youtube for his "Minority versus Predator" channel, his encounter with Phil Stone was the first time he met one of the men in person.
“He just happened to catch me on a day where I felt like leaving the house,” Bass said in an interview with New Jersey 101.5.
Authorities have warned against people taking the law into their own hands.
"Private citizens who take it upon themselves to investigate what they believe to be criminal conduct may compromise the potential investigation. They can also find themselves in a very dangerous situation," Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said Monday after announcing luring and attempted sexual assault charges against the 33-year-old Stone.
Bass pretended to be a teen girl online and got the man to meet him at a Five Guys in Toms River.
Bass said he is fully aware that police do not condone what he did. Bass also said he knows there are police investigators working on the same issue of child predators.
“Yeah I understand, you didn’t want me doing it, it’s stupid, I understand," he said.
”What I’m doing is proactive; they’re reactive. We wouldn’t be having this conversation had an actual 14-year-old girl showed up at the restaurant."
The New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is one of 61 such task forces nationwide, which include more than 4,500 federal, state, and local agencies.
The NJ ICAC Task Force consists of more than 60 law enforcement partners across the state, including the Office of the Attorney General.
In a release just over a year ago, the NJ ICAC said New Jersey experienced a dramatic increase in child-exploitation related incidents in just over a three-year span, including the number of investigations doubling from 855 to 1700.
Bass, who goes by Professor Minnow on his Youtube channel, said that while he fully respects the prosecutor’s office and its guidelines, "I am willing to do what I need to do to make sure the right thing gets done.”
While he has no background in psychology, counseling or law enforcement, Bass said he continues to be interested in how the men he comes in contact with justify their actions.
He said he got started after watching a lot of "To Catch a Predator”-style content and became curious to see how many potential child predators were in his area.
Bass logged onto two social media apps, using a decoy account on each featuring a female adult friend’s youthful photo.
“I let them message me first,” Bass said. “I tell them my age, anywhere from 12 to 15 years old, and I let the conversation go where it may.”
Bass said after such a chat, he'll send the information to the U.S. Marshals Service and also look for an accused child predator's other social media accounts in order to contact a close family member or significant other.
“Because they deserve to know who the real person is that they’re sharing a home with," he said.
He said Skout and Say Hi are the two apps that are primary sources of contacting potential predators.
As of Wednesday, Bass had almost 2,000 subscribers to his Youtube channel, which has 15 videos since November. His most recent video had been viewed almost 200,000 times.
An NBC News story in February 2019 found more than 30 similar vigilante operations on Facebook alone, based in 23 states, with the mission to expose potential sexual predators targeting minors.
Bass said he's been getting feedback from all over the place, and "a good 95% have been positive."
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