Know the dangers of online predators

A suspected child predator is behind bars after a Youtuber reported him to Gulfport police.

Thirty-three-year-old Justin Cripps was arrested January 12 for sex crimes against a child – after an internet documentarian posed as a 9-year-old girl online.

The Gulfport Police investigation found that Cripps sent the child explicit messages and tried to meet with her for sex.

It’s been a growing trend for years: civilians pose as children to lure unwary predators into the spotlight. They’re called predator poachers.

Police generally discourage civilians from acting on their own, at the risk of putting themselves in danger.

The video in question showing Cripps’ encounter with the Youtuber has racked up almost 75,000 views in just a few days. Page after page of search results shows that predatory behavior online might be more common than we think. Gulfport Police Sgt. Jason Ducre said, “These predators, they have no boundaries. They’ll drive hours to meet your children. It’s imperative you monitor their social media. It’s important that you have that open line of communication.”

Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers recommends reporting any suspicious activity you find on your child’s phone or social media – even if you’re not sure a crime is being committed. It could mean the difference between prevention and intervention. Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers Coordinator Lori Massey said, “We take any tip that the public wants to give. It might not make sense to us, but we still send it to law enforcement because it might make sense to law enforcement.”

Cripps is charged with enticement of a child to meet for sexual purposes, child exploitation, disseminating sexual material to a minor and resisting arrest. “We were able to investigate it, and we were able to take a predator off the street, which is always a win.”

He’s in the Harrison County Jail with a bond of $750,000.

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