A San Diego County Sheriff’s deputy’s patch. Courtesy of the department

A day after a 17-year-old girl was kidnapped when she and a group of friends attempted to catch a man allegedly looking for underage sex, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department is warning the public against going out on their own to capture a lawbreaker.

“The Sheriff’s Department strongly discourages the public from setting up meetings or contacting anyone for the purpose of catching an individual who is committing a crime,” Sgt. Shane Watts said. “These types of situations can be extremely dangerous and should be handled by your local law enforcement agency.”

The girl fell victim to the group’s target after a sting operation she and two other teens hatched went awry Sunday afternoon in Vista.

Authorities said the group used a social media application to exchange messages and arrange a meeting with a man said to be seeking out girls for sex. According to the Sheriff’s Department, they were hoping to expose the man’s intentions and turn over their information to law enforcement as evidence to be used against him. But when the girl went to meet the man, she got in his car and he drove away with her.

The teenager texted her friends for help, and they called authorities. Sheriff’s deputies contacted the suspect on his cell phone, and when he pulled over about two miles from where the incident began, the victim fled the car.

“The actions of the deputies from the Vista Sheriff’s Station led to the quick apprehension of the suspect and, more importantly, the safe return of the teenage girl,” Watts said.

Robert Dreyfus, 32, was arrested in connection to the incident and booked into the San Diego County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping, sending harmful matter to a minor and communication with a minor for specific offenses.

Authorities said there doesn’t appear to be any connection between the victim and the suspect outside of their communication through social media.

“The Sheriff’s Department takes all crimes against our children extremely serious, and is committed to keeping our children and communities safe,” Watts said. “If you have information involving a crime, please report it to your local law enforcement agency.”

Watts said that because the investigation is ongoing, there would be no further information released regarding the case.

— Staff report

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