After a half hour of talking, Hansen revealed he was a journalist working on a story. The man, indignant, said that the NBC crew hadn't caught him doing anything criminal.
"I'm not a lawyer," Hansen said. "My sense of it is they have to prove intent. Will police look him up and pay him a visit? Quite possibly."
They parted ways. Just to be safe, NBC producers quietly followed the man to a subway where he left the scene.
In another park, Hansen met with a man willing to sell the list of customers from his marijuana business. Before Hansen identified himself, the man said, "You look like that guy from the child molester show."
Well, yes. Hansen's NBC identity is sealed as the host of "Dateline's" long-running "To Catch a Predator" series, a sting operation for men convinced they've found an underage girl online who wants sex. NBC no longer runs the series, but reruns with updates occasionally air on MSNBC. NBC drew ethical questions for its role in setting up these confrontations and some critics suggested the network was using humiliation for entertainment.
Hansen knows it is the work he'll be remembered for most at NBC. In some situations, it's an advantage. Hansen said he's run into law enforcement officials who recognize him and give him access beyond what his competitors get.
"I know what you're getting at," he said. "Clearly when there is a character based on you on 'South Park' or 'The Simpsons,' that is something that sticks with you for the rest of your career. But I'm fine with that."
NBC is controlled by Comcast Corp.
EDITOR'S NOTE â¿¿ David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)ap.org or follow him online at http://www.twitter.com/dbauder