Child exploitation victims younger - OPP
Crimes becoming more violent
Provincial police say statistics from a single month’s worth of child exploitation investigations show the issue remains a major problem in Ontario and beyond.
As part of a bid to raise awareness of child exploitation, the Ontario Provincial Police released figures from the month of November.
During that 30-day stretch, the OPP and its 26 regional partners across Ontario laid 551 charges against 122 people while identifying 55 alleged child victims and referring them for help.
Locally, the North Bay Police Service has completed several investigations in 2018 with regard to the possession or making available of child sexual abuse material, says community safety co-ordinator John Schultz. The most recent investigation was completed on Nov. 26 when North Bay police executed a search warrant on a residence in the city.
Arrested at the residence was Wade Bentley, 54, who is in custody pending a bail hearing on two counts of possession of child pornography, two counts of making available child pornography and
two counts of accessing child pornography.
OPP investigators say those arrested include past and present teachers, emergency services personnel, military members and others active in local communities.
They say officers identified 834 unique IP addresses accessing child pornography during November alone, describing that figure as “the tip of the iceberg.”
Investigators also say anyone who accesses child pornography online is complicit in the abuse and constant re-victimization of children, some of whom were as young as three.
“Some of these victims are so young, they cannot report the crimes because they have not uttered their first word,” OPP Insp. Tina Chalk said at a news conference. “If you watch, distribute or access child pornography, you may as well be holding the hand of the offender who is committing the abuse.”
Investigators say the offences covered by the charges laid in November were numerous, citing sexual assault, sexual interference, voyeurism and luring as just a few examples.
OPP staff sgt. sharon hanlon, co-ordinator of the Provincial strategy to Protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation on the Internet, says the people arrested in November were similarly diverse.
They came from all walks of life in communities across the province, she says. The 122 people facing charges include 12 with previous convictions for offences related to child sexual abuse materials, 11 youth under the age of 18 and one female.
“I think it’s clear that this crime crosses all demographics of wealth, employment, social status and age,” she says. “These people are our neighbours, relatives and friends. These are people we invite into our worlds because we trust them.”
The OPP said it’s been taking part in a co-ordinated provincial strategy since 2006 that has consistently seen high levels of child exploitation activity, though hanlon notes that investigators have observed a trend toward younger victims and more violent offences in recent years.
since its inception, police say the provincial strategy has resulted in nearly 21,000 charges against 5,686 people and rescued 2,009 children.
schultz says det. const. buchanan of the North bay Police service’s criminal Investigations section is the investigating officer and is assigned many of this type of investigations locally.
“These investigations are complex and lengthy in nature,” buchanan says. “Police efforts are committed to this type of crime, however parents need to educate themselves to keep children safe and keep predators out of our real and virtual communities.”
anyone with information that may assist police with this type of investigation can contact the North bay Police service at 705-497-5555 and select option 9 to speak to a police officer. For those who wish to remain anonymous, contact Near North crime stoppers, by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or by submitting a tip online at nearnorthcrimestoppers.com.
With Nugget Files
Police officials release statistics from a single month’s worth of child exploitation investigations, Wednesday.