CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In his freshman year of college, Josh Brown spent his days going to class and his evenings trying to expose alleged criminals.
Brown hosts the YouTube channel called West Texas Predator Poachers (he's originally from west Texas). For the past few months, he has used social media and dating apps to pose as an underage teenager. He said older men then find and message him.
“One of the first things I do, or after they talk to me or whatever, I say I’m 13 or I’m 14 or I’m 15," he said. "They’re like—many, I get the response that they’re more intrigued. They want to do even more. Some are like wait up and just—they’ll take all precautions, they’ll ask for pictures. They ask for verification.”
Brown has been on a mission to catch alleged sexual predators and show the Corpus Christi community. He said he interacts with men from all walks of life, but the thing they have in common is they try to meet up with teenagers for sexual contact or to do drugs. He said some have sent sexually explicit photos of themselves.
“The point of this is so not just for YouTube and what not, but I want to make sure they know that it’s wrong too," said Brown. "So, it’s very sad how they can come out here and potentially ruin a 13-year-old, 14-year-old, 12-year-old’s life. It’s pretty sad. And many of the predators I catch they even talk about how they’ve been touched or raped or molested when they were younger. And it’s really confusing because you’d think they’d want to change the cycle.”
After chatting with the men, Brown will meet up with them, recording the interaction on his cell phone. In his videos you hear Brown asking for a confession, asking them to call someone in their life to hold them accountable, and ask them if they need help.
“Most of the reactions I get is they’re in denial, they’re like I don’t know what you’re talking about bro," Brown said. "Those are the ones that are really disturbing because I’m like—I’m giving them a way to better themselves. Or just like come out because some people just need someone to confide in to stop what they’re doing. And then there are some that just admit to it, they don’t care.
"They’re like ‘yeah I’m wrong, well OK, I’m going to leave.’ And there’s some that don’t want any of the information to leak at all. They’ll do anything to not get it leaked. And those are the scary ones. Actually, all of them are really scary to encounter, but those are the ones you really have to watch out for.”
Some speed off in their car after seeing Brown isn’t who he said he was. Others stick around for a conversation.
Brown acknowledged that what he’s doing is very dangerous. In a few videos, he mentions he records for his protection and their protection. He follows up by asking if they have any weapons and if they can keep their hands in sight.
“When I first started out I was very nervous you could hear it in my voice in my first couple videos," he said. "But, honestly I know what I’m doing is right and the way I go about it is right. So, I’m really not—you’re right, you can never understand what’s going on in someone’s mind. They could be some type of serial killer and I don’t know, I’m just coming to catch them.
“It depends. I go off their energy. If they want to be calm with me I’ll be calm with them. I’ll be nice. But if they want to have an attitude, which mainly I get, I give attitude back. And I hit them with the facts," said Brown.
Brown said part of the reason he does this is because he wants to go into law enforcement. He was also inspired by other YouTube Channels.
“Me and my friends before I went to college, we were watching Chris Hansen videos and a lot of Predator Poacher videos," said Brown. "And honestly it's crazy I work with some of the people I used to watch. They helped me and helped me out. They’re really good to work with and they showed me the ropes.”
Actions like Brown's poaching are a nationwide trend. Brown said he’s part of a larger Predator Poacher’s network that stretches across the country and even includes Toronto. Many take part throughout Texas in Abilene and Houston.
Like those “poachers,” Brown turns his evidence into law enforcement, he claims. Brown told KRIS 6 News he gives the videos and saved chats with these men to the local division of Homeland Security. When asked to confirm if Brown had been doing so, they provided this statement:
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) routinely receives tips and leads regarding suspected criminal activity from a variety of sources to include members of the public. To preserve operational security and protect the anonymity and personal safety of our sources, the agency does not reveal their identity unless compelled to do so during a criminal proceeding. While we always encourage anyone with information regarding suspected criminal activity to report it to law enforcement, we ask the general public to refrain from engaging with suspected criminals or conducting their own criminal investigations.
"Members of the public who wish to report suspected criminal activity may contact the HSI Tipline at 1-866-347-2423.”
What is the legality of Brown’s actions?
Texas Penal Code states entrapment is only pertinent if it’s a law enforcement officer luring someone into crime. Brown also said he never messages first, it’s always the older men that start the conversation.
Texas Penal Code also states it’s illegal to even attempt to meet up with a minor with the intent of sexual actions.
The charge of online solicitation of minor means it is illegal to communicate in a “sexually explicit way with a minor” or send sexually explicit material. It goes on to state it’s illegal to knowingly solicit a minor to meet up for sexual contact and it’s not a defense if the meeting didn’t happen.
The charge can range from a third-degree to second-degree felony.
We asked Corpus Christi Police Department for an interview about the admissibility of the possible evidence. They declined an interview and provided a statement.
“The Corpus Christi Police Department takes the protection of children and the prosecution of child predators very seriously.
"We do not encourage any person to perform their own investigations. Our Internet Crimes Against Children Investigators are very experienced and highly trained in proper investigation techniques which include evidence collection, interrogation, and properly documenting the incident. They work closely with our federal partners to investigate and prosecute internet crimes against children. If a civilian takes it upon themselves to investigate an incident it could place them in danger and hinder an ongoing investigation.
"If anyone comes across any information involving internet crimes against children, we encourage you to contact the Corpus Christi Police Department at 911 or 361-886-2600. This will allow the officer to document the criminal complaint and begin the process of the criminal investigation. “
No one that Brown has encountered has been charged as a result of his videos. It's not impossible, however. Four men were indicted in Montgomery County in Ohio, after videos of them surfaced by predator poachers. Three of those men were granted treatment in lieu of conviction.
“These men are grandfathers, fathers. One of the last guys I caught had an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old and was coming to have intercourse with a 13-year-old. It’s very concerning. And I think that in order for our generation to go farther and do better things than us, we’ve got to start off and do better. And make it a better place for our children to grow up. Because it’s just going to repeat the cycle. Just like many of the predators I catch, they’re in a cycle, it’s just going to repeat.”
You can find Brown’s YouTube page here.