Fourteen people from communities across northern Alberta have been charged with more than 30 offences related to online child sexual exploitation.
The suspects were all charged between June and October of this year. They are all men between the ages of 26 and 61.
The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams’ (ALERT) Internet Child Exploitation unit (ICE) said none of them worked in professions of trust and/or authority.
Officials said Operation ICE Reign was launched in response to an increase in child sexual exploitation offences. The ICE unit has seen a 75 per cent increase in the number of new child sexual exploitation cases over the last six years.
“Operation ICE Reign resulted in the seizure of thousands of photos and videos of children being abused and each one of those images represents a real-world victim,” ALERT Insp. Dave Dubnyk said. “As a society, we have a collective responsibility to protect children and shield them from sexual exploitation.”
“These images seized in this investigation depict extreme abuse with victims, sometimes as young as infants,” Dubnyk added. “Our forensic technicians are still examining the more than 250 computers, cell phones and electronics devices that were seized and, to date, have found upwards of 25,000 photos and videos.”
ALERT said there “is no definitive link between the suspects other than the offences allegedly committed.”
The following individuals are facing charges, although the ALERT news release did not reveal what specific charges they were facing:
ICE is a unit made up of members from the Edmonton Police Service and the RCMP.
It investigates offences involving child pornography, any computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the Internet, voyeurism involving victims under the age of 18 and child sex trade/tourism.
Officers hope Operation ICE Reign raises awareness about the pervasiveness of child sexual exploitation. ALERT partnered with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
“While the Internet did not create this problem, it has created unprecedented opportunities for offenders to access, possess and distribute child sexual abuse material-as well as actively participate in the market of child sexual abuse,” Lianna McDonald, executive director for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, said. “Today’s announcement not only underscores how significant a problem this is, but also challenges the misconceptions about who and what type of individuals participate in these crimes against children.”
McDonald said, to date, the centre has received information from 115 survivors of abuse.
“We are now starting to see the first generation of victims of child sexual abuse whose abuse has been recorded and distributed online,” she said. “They are now reaching adulthood.”
Anyone with information about this investigation or any child exploitation offence is asked to contact local police or cybertip.ca.
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