(June 21, 2019) Exposing child predators one at a time — this is the slogan of Pennsylvania native Justin Perry, aka MR 17540, who recently visited Ocean City to expose three men he believed were pedophiles.
Perry began to document himself exposing people he thought were pedophiles last year after he saw a Florida man do the same.
Since then, Perry has uploaded around 88 videos to his Facebook page documenting his confrontations with the men in question.
“I’ll post to a dating website and…you have to be 18 to have a profile,” Perry said. “I never reach out to one of these guys, I wait for them to send me a message.”
Once a man messages Perry, he tells them that he is not 18. Any man who continues the conversation becomes added to his list of men to expose.
His videos attract thousands of viewers, and several of them have well over 100,000 views.
His Ocean City video currently has over 19,000 views.
Ocean City Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Miller said that while there are currently no investigations, they are aware of the videos and are monitoring the social media and the content associated with the perpetrators.
Perry’s online fan base sees him as a vigilante.
His fans pour out their hearts in the comment section of his videos, often praising him for his work and criticizing the legal system.
“This really shows a huge flaw in our justice system,” a fan wrote on Facebook. “You can go to prison for plotting to murder somebody, plotting to sell drugs…yet MR 17 5 40 can get grown men to admit on video that they were trying to solicit sex from a child [and] nothing can be done?”
However, law enforcement and legal attorneys have been critical of Perry’s work, noting that it obstructs justice and produces no true results.
“The law as it is for sexual solicitation of a minor requires either a child to be involved, or law enforcement posing as a child,” Worcester County State’s Attorney Kris Heiser said. “So when somebody goes out on their own and just decides to be a 15-year-old online, that’s not a chargeable offense. “
Heiser said rather than doing such vigilante work, it would be more fruitful to submit evidence to law enforcement officials so that they can pose as children instead, and actually arrest them.
“That’s why law enforcement exists. That’s their whole job,” she said.
Perry said that he had plans to speak to a detective in Ocean City. However, as of right now OCPD has not worked directly with him, Miller said.
Heiser said she understood the argument that publicly shaming a potential child predator may prevent them from seeking another victim, but stressed the fact that without law enforcement involved, no justice can be sought.
“When someone chooses to just go out and do this on their own, absent of law enforcement involvement, we’re not left with anything but emotional social media incidents that don’t move the ball forward when it comes to protecting our children,” Heiser said.