09/02/2016 09:58 EDT | Updated 09/03/2017 01:12 EDT

RCMP urge end to B.C. vigilante groups targeting online predators

SURREY, B.C. — British Columbia's Integrated Child Exploitation unit wants vigilante groups to leave policing to the professionals after media attention on a group of civilians who are posting the names and photos of alleged abusers on social media.

Sgt. Hernan Topacio, who is head of the unit, says the team targets the "worst of the worst offenders" using the Internet to lure children for sexual purposes.

He says he worries that the attention on the group of civilians who claim to do the same work can undermine police by putting the public in danger or by allowing predators to escape prosecution.

Topacio says in a news release that police and vigilante groups have a common goal in identifying adults who prey on children.

But he says his experience shows merely posting the name and photo of an alleged abuser on social media won't stop the behaviour.

The RCMP urges anyone aware of incidents of online child exploitation to report it to the local police or use the Mountie's online tip line.

"The greater focus needs to be placed in identifying and rescuing victims and ensuring that perpetrators are not able to victimize further," says Topacio in the release. "Any effort should certainly extend beyond just the initial public identification."