The Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit is being regarded as one of the best in the country when it comes to tracking and taking down child predators.
On Thursday, a new report will go before the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners outlining the work of the ICE Unit.
The ICE unit is made up of members from the RCMP, Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert police services.
It’s relatively small compared to other units across Canada but has had many high profile cases and a lot of success in the number of offenders it’s been able to put away.
In 2017, while the number of people charged was the lowest police had seen in several years – the number of charges laid against those involved was still relatively high.
Workloads for these types of units are only expected to increase in the digital age as officers attempt to stay one step ahead.
This involves specific training such as learning advance internet investigative techniques for investigators and forensic training for computer forensic analysts.
An on-going education on the latest and greatest in social media is crucial. According to Statistics Canada, between 2006 and 2016 there was a 233 per cent increase in child pornography cases in the country. In 2016 alone, those figures jumped by 40 per cent and Saskatchewan is keeping pace.
In 2017, ‘Project Roundhouse’ led by the Saskatoon Police Service resulted in the identification and investigation of 71 Canadian targets, 844 U.S. targets and at least six children were rescued.
Nine children were saved in the Philippines, after Philip Michael Chicoine of Saskatoon pleaded guilty to 40 child porn-related charges in June of 2017.
Chicoine was sentenced to 12 years in prison after paying for live-streams of child pornography with the help of women in Romania and Philippines.
The live-streams involved children between the ages of four and nine displaying their genitalia and engaging in oral sex.
To date, he is serving the longest sentence ever handed down for child porn offences in Saskatchewan and is appealing.
The two general types of investigations conducted by the ICE unit include reactive ones and proactive stings – stopping predators before they strike.
Once charges are laid there has been a 98 per cent conviction rate in Saskatchewan and many are then declared dangerous or long-term offenders.
Since it’s inception, Saskatchewan’s ICE Unit has helped rescue more than 100 children from victimization – 23 were removed from exploitative environments in 2017 alone.