Hi reddit. It’s been 2 years since my previous AMA, and since then, a lot has changed. But one thing that hasn’t changed is my commitment to removing predators of all sorts from the streets and internet.
I’ve launched a new campaign called “Hansen vs. Predator” with the goal of creating a new series that will conduct new investigations for a new program.
You can help support the campaign here: www.hansenvspredator.com
Or on our official Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1606694156/hansen-vs-predator
Let’s answer some questions. Victoria’s helping me over the phone. AMA.
How did you feel about the South Park episode that had you as a character?
It finally made me look “cool” to my teenage sons.
Was there ever a reaction that a predator had that you were surprised by?
Before I could say a word, one of them looked at me and said “Oh, you’re Chris Hansen.”
I said, “How did you know that?”
And he said “I watch the show all the time, and when I miss an episode, I download it from the internet.”
What was the most unexpected item brought along to one of the bait houses?
A predator brought along their 5 year old son.
Have you ever considered doing a “Follow Up” episode on certain of the caught predators? I’d like to think that some of them learned their lesson and came out of it better people. Obviously, none of them are happy to be in the position they were in they met you the first time, but some of them might appreciate the opportunity to show how much they’ve grown/matured/changed. Or is that something that would get shot down by 100% of the individuals?
I think that’s an excellent idea.
In fact, I’m going to give serious thought to reaching out to some people who could take part in that.
I think it would be fascinating.
How many people take the cookies/tea offered?
Although one night, the brownies were left out overnight, and the first predator the next morning almost broke a tooth, they were so hard.
In your new series, “Hansen vs Predator”, can we expect the same “why don’t you have a seat over there” catchphrase?
Yes, of course.
But I’ll also have some new catchphrases as well.
Do you ever wake up and say to yourself, i’m Chris Haaannnssseenn?
On To Catch A Predator were you ever worried about the predators considering how violent they could theoretically be?
Yes, but we took a lot of precautions with our security, and I’m confident that we have & will be as safe as possible.
Has any predator ever got in contact with you after the show and tell you how their life is going?
I can’t think of a case where that’s happened.
What was the worst scenario you have encountered? The one that made question humanity the most.
When the guy walked in, naked… and wanted to involve whipped cream and a cat in the sexual scenario.
What was your reaction when you learned that a man had killed himself during a sting operation involving Perverted-Justice and at least one Dateline cameraman? With your new Kickstarter project, do you have any concern about this happening again?
Any suicide is awful, and tragic.
Our investigations will follow a strict protocol to ensure that while justice is served, it is done so ethically and fairly.
Love the show, and glad to see it coming back! In your observation, is Mikes Hard Lemonade the choice beverage amongst predators?
We actually got a call from the lawyers at Mike’s Hard Lemonade asking us to not use their product anymore.
What inspired you to continue doing To Catch a Predator online, instead of on regular television?
The plan is to do it originally online, and repackage it for broadcast, so we want to do both.
And it’s because that’s the way people are receiving content these days. And audiences are there to consume the show.
What’s a project that you were passionate about, but never really took off?
Well, I could tell you right off the top of my head, it was a story involving US government contractors using slave labor at government bases overseas.
It didn’t take off. We weren’t able to infiltrate it at a level where we could get video evidence where we knew what was going on.
The other one was we were going to set up a “predator house” to capture Chinese spies. That never got off the ground either.
How did the idea for “To Catch a Predator” come about? Did you learn anything unexpected while conducting these stings over the years?
The idea grew out of a conversation I had years ago, with a fellow reporter, a friend of mine. We learned about the online watchdog group, Perverted Justice, and I figured if we could combine their talent posting as decoys with our hidden camera technology, it could be pretty compelling.
And what surprised me most is that these guys come from all walks of life. They usually don’t stand out of a crowd. Doctors, clergymen, military people, teachers…
I was wondering why you’re doing a kickstarter for this? Surely lots of companies would be happy to fund this project. Also did you like The Boondocks parody?
I would say to that: I’m going this route because I want to have creative control, and control of distribution, and to be honest with you, I’ve never seen the Boondocks Parody! I wasn’t aware of it. It’s been described to me, but I haven’t seen it.
What will you change about the show this time around if your crowd funding is successful?
We would change the way that we communicate with predators, because there are so many more ways to communicate online than there were when we began. When we began, we used chatrooms on AOL and Yahoo! and nowadays, we have dozens and dozens of ways to communicate.
Technology has improved – for everything from the cameras to the microphones. It’s a whole ‘nother playing field now.
And we also have means to find out more about these people before they actually show up.
I think it’s going to be a more sophisticated program. Because we’ll have more space to tell the story.
Will you create the show regardless of the Kickstarter goal being met?
I’m confident we’ll surpass our goal.
Has doing the show has made you feel better? Obviously, you have done a lot of good getting predators off the internet, but it must be incredibly sad to interact with them and realize just how dangerous the world can be for young people.
Well, that’s very true.
It is sad.
But at the same time, I know that by exposing these people, we’re creating a dialogue and awareness that didn’t exist before. So it remains important work.
What would you say to those who view what you do as entrapment?
It’s not entrapment. Because the decoys never make the first move. Nor do they raise the issue of having sex. It’s always the potential predator that does that.
Why don’t you take a seat over there?
I’d like to, but I’ve been driving around working on a story all day and I need to stretch my legs.
On To Catch a Predator, on at least one occassion/stop, didn’t the majority of your suspect’s cases get thrown out due to some legal technicality?
There was only one investigation where some of the cases were not prosecuted. And that resulted from a disagreement between a police department and a prosecutor’s office. The reality is some of the people who were in the investigation were arrested in similar stings later. And that former prosecutors said that every one of those cases could have been taken to court, should the prosecutor have chosen to do so.
Now that we’ve evolved from AOL/AIM/Yahoo Chatrooms, where is the new mainstream venue for online child predators? Dating websites? Facebook?
Kik… Interactive gaming, Instagram, Snapchat – anywhere where potential targets or victims could be online!
Do you at all find the sheer amount of websites where adults can chat online with children, overwhelming?
Well, you’re absolutely right that it’s going to be a challenge, but we’re going to use the best technology available to do just that.
How do you choose the decoys for the show? How involved are they behind the scenes?
Decoys are chosen because they look young, but have the maturity to play the part in a responsible and safe way. They are only involved behind the scenes in that they need to know as much as they can about the potential predator they’re going to be talking to.
What do you think of the idea that there are lots of people who think “you are the last person on earth they want to see”?
You know… I suppose, concerning what I do for a living, that could be considered an honor!
Time and again it has been revealed that pedophiles seek positions of respect and authority. Priests, politicians, police, etc.. Will you ever pursue such monsters who have the means to make your life… uncomfortable? Or have you tried such things in the past and encountered enough resistance to force you to back off?
We’ve never backed off, with anyone, no matter what their position is in society.
Will there be a new soundboard but officially by you and your crew on the App Store?
That’s not a bad idea.
Do your friends invite you to “have a seat over there” when you go to their house? And are you tired of hearing it?
Only about 12 times a week.
And it never gets tiring.
What’s your favourite cheese?
Hot Jalapeno Jack.
Will there ever be a release of all of the investigations you’ve done for NBC?
No, but that’s a pretty good idea.
My com tech class was just wondering what was the best excuse someone tried to give you when attempting to get out of the sting operation?
“I just came over to keep the girl company, and protect her until her parents got home.”
While making To Catch a Predator, did you ever come across female predators? If you restart the series, do you think it would be beneficial to pursue more female predators to help the public recognize that predators can be of both genders?
We never had a female predator surface in our investigation. And experts in the field say when it comes to female predators, you’re more likely to see the “teacher / student” scenario, as opposed to someone meeting anonymously online. Not to say that it hasn’t happened, it has, but it just hasn’t come up in one of our investigations. And we investigate equally.
Since you have children of your own, what do/did you do to protect them online?
My guys are college-aged now, but when they were younger, I would limit their time online. Which made them, you know, focus on talking to their friends, downloading music, and checking movie schedules – leaving them less time to loiter in places where there could be a threat. But it’s a different time now. They didn’t have smartphones when they were young.
Have you ever had an event that couldn’t be aired due to it going wrong/was to explicit?
Do you ever reach the point where you think you just can’t deal with this anymore? How, if at all, has your approach changed over the course of the program?
You know, I’ve seen – it’s true, I’ve seen my fair share of disturbing things. I think it’s important to expose them. And so I will continue to do so.
I am a big believer in what you do. Have you ever gotten any sort of threats or possible danger after the fact from one of the people you have helped apprehend?
You know, I’ve gotten numerous threats over the years. But I think I have a pretty good security protocol in place to stay protected.
Was Predator a success or failure? How many charges have been dropped or overturned?
“Predator” was an overwhelming success. In only case that I’m aware of was there a dismissal.
What’s your opinion on parents who give their children access to the internet (I-phones, I-pads, laptops etc) from a young age?
Well, I think you have to be cautious, because there’s so much that can be accessed, and so many people that can access them, that you have to monitor closely, and have a discussion about the potential dangers online with your children.
Will you join me for some sweet tea? I’m curious though, are predators prone to enjoying sweet tea?
You know… sweet tea definitely became one of the signature drinks of the Predator investigations, mostly because those are investigations that were in the South, where sweet tea is very popular.
What is necessary to elevate awareness of this issue? It seems attention is now directed towards online bullying instead of online predators.
Online bullying is a huge issue as well. But the truth is predators will try to figure out ways to connect with targets online. We think it’s important to continue to pursue online predators even as we deal with bullying as well.
What’s the top piece(s) of advice you would give parents to keep their kids safe online based on your experience?
If you don’t know somebody in person, don’t speak with them online.
And there are minimum age limits on social networks for a reason.
What is Chris Hansen’s ideal breakfast?
Let’s see. My ideal breakfast is a cup of hot fresh coffee in my signature mugs (which is a reward on my campaign ).
But really it’s kale / apple / ginger juice.
How shocked were you when you encountered a Predator on consecutive days, with the second being at a McDonalds?
It was one of the few times in my career that I’ve been at a loss for words.
What keeps you going?
Well, just the knowledge that these people are out there, and if I don’t do it – who will?
Will you (or do you currently) have official merchandise for sale? I think I’d get a kick out of placing a “Have a seat” sign in my kitchen.
Ironically, you can get some of that very merchandise by getting involved in the Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1606694156/hansen-vs-predator