Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series.
By Jasmine Morehead
SYRACUSE—The Facebook page, “Bikers Against Predators,” was created in February 2021 after the leader “Boots” found out a “predator” was messaging his daughter.
“I have a teenager and she had a phone,” Boots said. “Upon checking her device we had come across a conversation that was with her and an older man. He had threatened to rape her … We took this information to our local law enforcement and we were told we don’t know who’s on the other end, not a lot we could do. It sucks, but we really can’t do much about this.”
After being discouraged by the answers, he decided to test how big an issue this was. He joined a few of the apps with a fake photo and saw why so many organizations exist to protect children against predators.
“Within minutes I had guys messaging me and they didn’t mind my age. And I’m like, man is it really this bad and yeah. We’re close to 80 some individuals that we’ve caught since February,” Boots shared.
Bikers Against Predators has five members, including Boots, who work to catch “predators.” Each member gets a “burner phone” (a phone not connected to them or any of their personal information) and use apps such as Kik, MeetMe, Snapchat, Grinder, Instagram and a few more. Also, members have three rules they always follow while on the apps.
“We don’t ever message anybody first, number two is we don’t speak sexual first and number three is we don’t set the meet,” Boots explained.
Despite being an organization created and primarily focused in northern Indiana they have assisted with a case in Georgia, caught a man from Arkansas and helped lead to a conviction in Michigan.
“There is really no perimeter … We try to stay in the northern Indiana area, but we kinda go wherever they are at,” Boots said.
The group does turn in everything they collect to the county the individual resides in. They do not do this line of work just for the charges.
“If we did this for charges, it’s not worth it. We do this for awareness, to spread that awareness… For whatever reason it is very hard to prosecute these cases,” Boots shared.
Boots has seen states and researched different countries that don’t question prosecuting individuals who sexually message minors. His frustration is with the laws and questioning why Indiana is so different.
“For me, it’s why are we different? Why is it these other countries have these laws that will protect children, but we’re lax over here? Because, well, it wasn’t a real minor, but you thought it was a real kid,” he explained.
Ultimately Boots is hoping change to happen with the laws currently in place for cases such as these.
“I pray our laws throughout the country will change, that we’ll stop protecting these guys,” Boots said.
Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hampton shared any and all information turned over by this group is reviewed by law enforcement and his office.
“My office is reviewing the prosecutorial merit, if any, of cases submitted by Bikers Against Predators through local law enforcement. Bikers Against Predators is not an agent of law enforcement. Therefore, law enforcement conducts its own investigation of any alleged criminal conduct after receiving a complaint from Bikers Against Predators,” Hampton said.