GRAND RAPIDS-- The vigilante responsible for helping put accused sex predators behind bars spoke to Fox 17 in an exclusive interview on Thursday. Many people know him by his YouTube account called 'Anxiety War' where he posed as a 15-year old girl online, but he is actually a 23-year old man named Zach Sweers.
It was his videos showing his encounters with alleged sex predators in West Michigan that led to charges of seven men, all of whom face serious time behind bars if convicted.
The meeting with Sweers started out as an informal conversation with no camera, but towards the end he decided he wanted to ask a question. It was then that he agreed to let us start recording.
"I think the question to pose to people is do you know what is really going on online?" said Sweers. "So many people turn a blind eye to it and don't really know how dangerous it can be and what people are capable of doing online. People don't think it's real. The danger is already in your house on the internet."
From there, Sweers discussed his meetings with alleged predators, one of them in Grand Rapids' Richmond Park.
"The man wouldn't look at my eyes when I would talk to him," began Sweers. "It was awesome that he wouldn't look at me because I'm thinking of course I'm not a 13-year-old kid, so it helped my disguise. I actually shaved my hands so I wouldn't look like a 23-year-old, but I pulled my sleeves down over my hands just in case."
Sweers said his activity started out of curiosity in 2013. He wanted to know how many predators lived in the area, so he answered a personals ad on Craigslist and the rest was history. He recorded his encounters wearing special sunglasses with a camera in them, which would later be evidence he would turn over to police.
"The Pivothead Durango look like normal sunglasses" explained Sweers. "They're not aviators so much, but there's a little processor in there and everything. There's a lens in there, but it's fairly big to capture 1080p, it has to be good. There's a little circle in there. It is weird when I'm confronting people they don't know I'm filming them. Some of them don't, some can see it."
One meeting wasn't enough; he had to keep going.
"It's so fun," said Sweers. "It is like the feeling when your favorite team wins a game but just barely, like a buzzer beater or whatever. It's like that feeling but more. When you're talking to the predator it's like 'Gotcha!'. Knowing that they are on video, I don't want to say it's empowering, but it's fun."
Sweers says he doesn't do it just for that reason; he does it to empower victims to speak up, to keep these people from meeting up with actual children and to get them to help. As far as being hailed a hero, the vigilante says that's not him.
"I'm not in it for the fame," said Sweers. "I think by not talking to the media I think that really illustrates that. I'm not in it for the fame, but when I heard there would be no video cameras here I thought that was cool because I want to talk to anybody, just about this. "
The main thing Sweers wants the public to take away from this is to be vigilant because more predators are out there and can be very manipulative. It doesn't matter who they are or what they look like, they are out there, but Zach doesn't plan on stopping what he's doing any time soon.