Police in Antwerp arrested nine people accused of amassing a cache of weapons and calling themselves “pedo-hunters.”
It began with the discovery of a private Facebook group calling for people willing to hunt down paedophiles, and ultimately led to ten house searches in various locations throughout Flanders, where police discovered a stockpile of firearms (nine illegal, four registered) and ammunition.
The plan was presumably to lure alleged child abusers into a trap by posing as children on the internet and then agreeing to a meeting, at which point the so-called “pedo-hunter” would take action to either harm, expose, or even murder the accused.
The idea isn’t new.
A group of Dutch teenagers made headlines around the world when they killed a former teacher they accused of being a paedophile last year.
A spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s office said the victim had no record of ever abusing a minor, and a lawyer for one of the suspects said the teenagers had planned to meet up out of boredom during the pandemic, without a premeditated plan to assault the man.
There are several social media accounts based around the idea of “pedo-hunting,” whose activity police say isn’t legal, uses up their resources, and ultimately doesn’t help them catch paedophiles or child abusers, especially since most victims are abused by someone they already know rather than a stranger from the internet.
Those arrested in Flanders include eight men and one woman, all between the ages of 20 and 38, according to reporting from Nieuwsblad.
Their arsenal included nine guns, seven airsoft weapons, eight daggers, two sets of brass knuckles, and a baton like those carried by police.
“Further investigation should reveal whether the weapons were used in any criminal offenses,” police said.
They also seized several cell phones, laptops, and tablets while searching the homes, and are hoping to confirm whether or not the “pedo-hunters” actually victimised anyone.
“Anyone who suspects child abuse should take this to the police,” they said. “The police and the public prosecutor’s office are therefore sending a strong signal that taking the law into your own hands is not tolerated.”