Editor’s note: This story originally stated 13 men were charged in the investigation. However, Global News has since learned that one of the men was a youth at the time of his arrest, and so cannot be identified.
Thirteen people are charged with a total of 69 offences after a series of child luring investigations in Alberta over the last eight months.
The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team’s Internet Child Exploitation Unit said Wednesday the investigations targeted suspects who are alleged to have been trying to arrange for sex with children.
The charges laid in the investigations include child luring, making child pornography, possession of child pornography and sexual assault. (All charges can be read below).
“None of the cases are related but all the suspects have been charged with at least one count of child luring or attempted sexual assault against a child, including numerous other offences,” ALERT Staff Sgt. Stephen Camp said.
“I want to emphasize that these were men who were allegedly attempting to have sex with children. This should be quite startling and disturbing to the people in these communities where the suspects were arrested.”
“All of our targets were engaged with zeal in regards to having sex with a child or children,” he stressed.
Camp said ALERT found no instances of children being physically harmed or exploited.
The arrests took place in Edmonton, St. Albert, Wainwright, Drayton Valley, Fort Saskatchewan and Barrie, Ont. Three additional suspects based in the United States were also identified, ALERT said. The ICE unit forwarded information on these suspects to law enforcement officials in the States.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a drop in the bucket,” Camp said.
“It’s a significant amount — and there’s more coming — but it sends a message out to both the parents, the community and the perpetrators of this type of crime to be wary that we’re going to be there and we’re looking for them all the time.”
The incidents all took place online, ALERT said, with a “range of social media platforms and communications tools being used.”
Camp said the platforms included Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, Tumblr and Kik.
“Our social media partners are excellent actually,” Camp said.
“They have individuals and security offices in there that they are able to capture the metadata of the known child porn that’s out there and the narratives and discussion points from these individuals and they’ll send it to our national organizations like the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, which then provides us with some information to work on a file.”
Nearly 58 computers and electronic devices were also seized and are being examined now, Camp said.
The arrests were made between February and Oct. 11, 2018 and ALERT said none of the investigations are related other than the “similar nature of the offences.”
The suspects arrested include:
An 18-year-old man from Fort Saskatchewan, who was 17 when he was arrested, is also charged.
The ICE unit, which is based in Edmonton, worked with a number of different law enforcement agencies on the investigations, including RCMP in Wainwright, St. Albert, Drayton Valley and Fort Saskatchewan. The Edmonton Police Service, Barrie Police Service and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations were also involved.
Speaking generally, Camp said these kinds of cases should serve as safety reminders.
“Any online undercover operator can go out there online and within minutes be online with a pedophile. They’re out there and these individuals are highly motivated, so it is scary,” he said.
“We have to, I think, as a community — a global community — understand there’s pedophiles out there and everywhere and there’s a significant amount of them. I think that young children online need to have some kind of oversight.
“The predatory behaviour of these individuals is quite clear. They will go online and they will attempt numerous times a week to engage children and if they try enough times, they will find a child to meet — usually someone vulnerable.”
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