APD chief addresses claim that agency didn't cooperate with predator hunter organization
Jesse Shenk, 31, was arrested for allegedly agreeing to meet with an underage girl to engage in sexual activities.{p}{/p}

The Arcata Police Chief is addressing recent claims from the Worldwide Predator Hunters that it refused to cooperate with the organization when presented with evidence of potential child explotation.

Last week, two men were arrested by the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office with assistance from the Arcata Police Department for allegedly agreeing to meet with an underage girl to engage in sexual activity.

The sting was started after a decoy managed by the non-profit organization Worldwide Predator Hunters was contacted by the two men. One of those men being an Arcata resident.

In a Facebook post last week, the organization announced the arrest and claimed the APD did not assist in the sting to arrest the men.

"Shout out to Del Norte County Sheriff's Office for working with us on these cases!!" part of the post read. "Especially the particularly heinous Jesse Shenk of Arcata in which Arcata Police Department would unfortunately not correspond with us on the case. Please Take this behavior Seriously, California!"

The founder of the organization, who goes by Mr. Pretty stood by the claim Monday.

"I got a hold of a detective [with APD]. He told me to send all the files over to him and he 'ghosted' us, basically," Pretty said.

Pretty says attempts to get APD on board were unsuccessful, which he considers to be dangerous to the community.

"I think it is a slap in the face," Pretty said. "Why are you 'ghosting' your citizens, your community? What if that would have been a real child?"

Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn says that's just not the case.

"The fact that we were communicating with them, we received evidence from them within a half hour of us getting the call really illustrating the priority we placed on this allegation of criminal conduct," Ahearn said Tuesday.

Ahearn says his department is committed to investigating claims of child exploitation, citing past arrests of alleged child predators through tips from a similar predator hunting organizations.

According to the chief, APD initially received a call from the organization reporting their evidence at 11:24 a.m. on Jan. 28, 2021. Ahearn said the information was immediately assigned to a detective, rather than a patrol officer, who followed up with the organization.

Ahearn says 30 minutes after that call, the organization sent them files of their evidence to provide additional information.

Due to the complex nature of the case, Ahearn says Del Norte County was the lead agency.

"These cases, like all criminal cases especially when you have multiple counties involved can get very complicated very quickly," Ahern said. "Even though the suspect is in Arcata, our decoy is in Del Norte County and the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department has started an investigation. Our detective worked with Del Norte County Sheriff's investigators and the determination was made that Del Norte County would be the primary investigative agency with jurisdiction for the criminal case."

But Pretty says he wants better communication, which Ahearn concedes could have been better, saying that the line of communication may need to improve in the future.

Both men agree that the fight against child exploitation is needed.

"We're not going to stop, and we're going to keep going in your area," Pretty said.

Ahearn says anyone with information about potential child exploitation or abuse is asked to contact the Arcata Police Department.

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