Toronto Police announced online child exploitation arrests as part of the province-wide Project Maverick.
The month-long project was part of the Provincial Strategy to Protect Children From Sexual Abuse and Exploitation on the Internet, a province-wide collaboration between 27 police services, government and community agencies.
During the month, the policing partners conducted 277 investigations, completed 168 search warrants and seized 1,032 devices. In total, 428 charges were laid against 107 people. During the investigations, 61 victims were identified and referred to appropriate community-based resources for assistance, while an additional 60 children were safeguarded. There are 175 ongoing investigations where additional charges may be laid.
Detective Operations Staff Superitendent Paul MacIntyre thanked the investigators, analysts and digital forensic technicians who hold those exploiting children online accountable in Toronto and beyond.
“Online sexual offences don’t have any borders and go well beyond our jurisdiction. The internet and rapid growth of technology have given predators the opportunity to exploit children anywhere in the world and unfortunately the numbers continue to grow,” said McIntyre, crediting the collaborative work provincial strategy to keep kids safe online.
In Toronto, the Sex Crimes Unit Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) section investigative team had the following results:
- Conducted 24 search warrants in 20 days
- Arrested 23 people
- Laid 96 criminal charges
- Seized 131 devices containing images of child sexual abuse and exploitation
- Identified 22 victims
- Safeguarded 10 children
Safeguarding refers to protecting children who are in scenarios where there is an increased risk of exploitation. For example, if a parent of a child is charged for possessing child pornography, but there is no evidence that they harmed their own child, the child and family are provided additional support to ensure the child will not be exploited in the future.
ICE Detective Sergeant Barb Adam alleged that investigators were also able to prevent sexual abuse.
“In one instance, members of TPS, with the assistance of international partners, identified a person of interest on the dark web who was planning on kidnapping and abusing young children,” Adam said. “TPS and OPP members investigated the accused’s location and traveled to a remote Northern Ontario town to execute search warrants and make an arrest.
She said the Toronto charges include: possession, accessing, importing, distribution and making of child pornography as well as luring a person under 16, invitation to sexual touching, sexual assault and fail to comply with court order.
Adam said police investigations are only part of the solution to combatting online sexual exploitation.
“We all have a role to play in protecting children, by reporting, educating and remain vigilant we can work together to eliminate these crimes,” Adam said. “It’s important for parents and caregivers to educate older children and limit the access younger children have to devices and social media. If you come across any child sexual abuse material or feel you or someone you know is victim of sextortion contact local police or submit a report on cybertip.ca, submit a report anonymously to Crime Stoppers or, if it’s an emergency, call 9-1-1.”
She said there is a growing problem of sextortion and self-exploitation among teens and children.
Sextorition happens when a person shares a sexual image and then are threatened that the image will be shared publicly unless more images are shared or money paid.
Self-exploitation can happen intentionally or inadvertently when a person shares a revealing image that is then shared online.
Adam said the instances are also increasing among teenage boys.
If you come across any child sexual abuse material on the internet, please submit a report on Cybertip.ca – this website is operated by our colleagues at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. You can also report anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477), or at www.222tips.com, or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
There are resources available for anyone who uses child sexual abuse material online or is at risk of offending sexually against a child. The Canadian Centre Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) provides more information through The Talking for Change program. It is the first program of its kind in Canada for adults concerned about their risk to children.