Avon, IN — Across the country brave individuals provide a much needed service to society by launching undercover stings to ensnare child predators. These vigilante groups pose as children online and allow the predators to do all the talking as not to entrap them before scheduling a meeting and exposing the pedophiles.
The template for these encounters usually involves the alleged pedophile showing up to meet who they think is a child, and meeting the pedophile hunter instead. This is the same method employed by the highly popular show To Catch a Predator.
In Avon, Indiana one of these groups takes the vigilante approach a step further and has actual undercover models posing as children. PCI: Predator Catchers Incorporated has dozens of videos on their Facebook page in which they ensnare would be child rapists. On May 14, one of these child predators was caught in the act who happens to be a police officer in a neighboring town.
That officer was Portland Police Officer Joshua Clark who was caught on camera meeting a person who he thought was a 14-year-old girl in order to have sex. The encounter was captured on video and streamed live on Facebook.
As the video shows, once he realizes he’s busted, Clark claims he thought the child he was meeting was supposed to be 18-years-old. But Predator Catchers Incorporated had a burner phone with all the officer’s texts on it clearly indicating he knew he was meeting a child.
The incident unfolded on May 13 and after he was exposed, Clark reportedly went into hiding. On May 20, police acknowledged they had been notified about the video and released a statement saying Clark had resigned from the police department.
Police Chief Josh Stevenson noted in the statement that the Avon police department was investigating the incident but they were not “actively seeking” Clark. According to WTHR, Avon officials said they were notified on May 13 that a law enforcement officer from the Portland Police Department had reportedly “attempted to meet up with an underage child to potentially engage in sexual conduct” in Avon.
The group turned over all their evidence to the Avon department and on Thursday May 27, he was arrested — two weeks after trying to meet a child for sex. Clark was arrested Thursday without incident for Child Solicitation and Attempted Child Seduction by a law enforcement officer.
“In the days following the disturbing video that was shared online, our Detectives and Administrators worked closely with the Portland Police Department to resolve this case and to subsequently locate and apprehend Mr. Clark. We appreciate the patience and faith that our community has in our department to handle such matters with the utmost of integrity. We assure you that our agency is committed to accountability for all,” a post on the Avon Police Department’s Facebook page said.
“Although these incidents can be troubling for the public to process and questions the integrity of the department, it is important to note that these incidents are rare nationwide and this one incident should not distract the public’s overall opinion of the Portland Police Department,” Portland Mayor Josh Boggs said when the resignation was announced in a statement posted on the department’s Facebook page.
After news was released that one of their own officers was arrested, Portland police were quick to distance themselves from the officer and also pointed out that he was never assigned to schools.
“The safety of our kids in our community will always be paramount to our officers and we will effectively investigate and prosecute those in our community and assist outside agencies with their investigation against those who take any wrongful action against anyone in the community; in particular the vulnerable,” the department said online.
These vigilante child predator hunters provide a much needed service to society. While police focus on arresting people for arbitrary substances deemed illegal by the state, folks like PCI and others are out there putting fear in the minds of predators. What’s more, as this case illustrates, cops are caught in these stings all the time.
Earlier this year, we reported on a cop out of Charlotte County, Florida, Charlotte County Deputy Marty Allen, 41, was arrested after pedophile hunters caught him in the act of soliciting a child for sexual relations.
Just two months before that, a vigilante group known as Waits List caught a cop at an elementary school, identified in the video as “Alan Reese.”
Before that, we reported on Stow Police Chief Ralph Marino who was caught on video attempting to meet a boy he thought was 14.