By LISA CAPOBIANCO
For people who have not seen videos on Facebook or the news, a local movement has emerged to protect children from online predators.
Run by a man who goes by the name, “Incognito,” the POPsquad (Prey on Predators) aims to expose repeat offenders and unknown individuals while attempting to “get into their mind” and find reasons behind their actions and compulsions.
Recently, a Bristol young professional sat down with Incognito, who hopes to make his face more visible in the community. Mike Prentiss, co-chair of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce young professional group PYVOT, said he fully supports the mission of POPsquad.
“We want to make sure we can get as many of these predators off the street before they try to engage our families,” said Prentiss, who is raising his family in Bristol.
Known as the “man behind the mask,” Incognito uses online chat sites to wait for a message from potential predators. He portrays himself as an underage male or female depending on the circumstance, with the hope that he will be blocked or told to get off the site. In certain instances, these predators do not fear Incognito’s age and agree to eventually meet up. This is when Incognito captures a predator’s story on camera.
A recent encounter with POPsquad led to the arrest of a former Plainville High School special education teacher.
During their conversation, Prentiss said Incognito had a “troubled” past, but completely turned his life around to get as many predators off the street as possible.
Incognito also explained to Prentiss how his style of catching these predators has changed.
“Initially, when he met these catches, he was verbally aggressive, where he learned that if he comes off that way, he will never be able to get to the root cause of their problem,” said Prentiss, who recognized two predators that Incognito caught on camera.
After meeting him, Prentiss said he was surprised to learn that there is not always full support for Incognito’s work.
Born and raised in Bristol, Prentiss wants to raise support for the movement to make the community a better place to work, live and play.
A member of the Board of Directors for the Central Connecticut chamber and other Bristol organizations, Prentiss said he is currently seeking a free or donated space to hold a community “meet and greet” event with Incognito. Once a location is set, Prentiss will announce more details about the event.
“Having a meet and greet with the local community will bring an understanding of Incognito, his goals and his success,” said Prentiss, who works at Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage, Inc.
For more information, visit POPsquad’s website, www.popsquadcc.com/ or on Facebook.