When your trademark line is, “Why don’t you have a seat right there?” and you’re known for undercover stings that catch criminals, sometimes a social setting can provide for awkward moments.
Just ask Chris Hansen, who rose to fame as the host of Dateline NBC’s “To Catch A Predator” and is now back with “Hansen Vs. Predator,” a segment on the show “Crime Watch Daily.”
“I was standing in a building in Manhattan and I had my bag with me; getting ready to go to the airport,” the investigative journalist recalled. “People would walk in and they were startled for a minute!”
When I mentioned to people that Hansen would be joining my radio show, friends joked that he was actually coming for me. But in reality, the false narrative that Hansen is always undercover actually plays out in his real life sometimes.
“One time I was buying a gift. The guy is showing it to me and he’s sweating profusely from the forehead,” he continued. “And I said, ‘You alright? Is everything good?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, you don’t have a hidden camera on me right now, do you?’
“’No, I’m just trying to get a last minute gift for Christmas!’”
Celebrities and public figures have even joked with Hansen about it. He recalled meeting Arnold Palmer at a hotel bar in Kansas City once. When Hansen walked in, the Latrobe, Pa. native was chatting with patrons, including a group of women that were younger than him, but as the late golfer cracked, “not that younger.”
“He could not have been nicer,” the reporter said of Palmer, who passed away over the weekend at the age of 87.
Interactions like that are probably nice changes of pace for Hansen, who has made a living from on-camera confrontations that are both tense and cringe-worthy. And the world of predators has only grown since Hansen’s first report due to the advent of social networks and their respective smartphone applications.
“The potential predators, adults, know this,” Hansen said. “And that’s where the approaches are made.”
But now Hansen is once again approaching them, with the assistance of both local authorities and Tetrad Core, an organization committed to protecting children against predators.
“Overall, in each case where there’s been a parallel investigation by law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office has been involved, I can only think of one case where I guy walked,” Hansen said.
Hansen has played a role in catching over 300 of these criminals. And while he first thought after the initial “To Catch A Predator” aired that this would only be a report lasting a few weeks, 12 years later, that number is still growing.
“Crime Watch Daily With Chris Hansen” airs weekdays in New York on PIX 11 at 1 p.m.