On­tario child porn probes lead to 122 ar­rests

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - - With files from the Cana­dian Press and Post­media News

More than a dozen peo­ple in South­west­ern On­tario, in­clud­ing seven in Lon­don, are among more than 100 peo­ple charged last month in child porn probes across the prov­ince.

At a me­dia con­fer­ence in Vaughan on Wed­nes­day, On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice pro­vided what they called a snap­shot of work by in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the OPP and more than two forces in­volved in a pro­vin­cial strat­egy tar­get­ing peo­ple who sex­u­ally abuse chil­dren and ex­ploit them on the In­ter­net.

Dur­ing Novem­ber, the OPP and 26 lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments laid 551 charges against 122 peo­ple while iden­ti­fy­ing 55 al­leged child vic­tims and re­fer­ring them for help. Po­lice also seized 17 firearms, in­clud­ing three loaded hand­guns.

Charges in­clude sex­ual as­sault, sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence, in­vi­ta­tion to sex­ual touch­ing, pos­ses­sion of child pornog­ra­phy, mak­ing avail­able child pornog­ra­phy, dis­tri­bu­tion of child pornog­ra­phy, mak­ing child pornog­ra­phy, ac­cess­ing child pornog­ra­phy, lur­ing and mak­ing sex­u­ally ex­plicit ma­te­rial avail­able to a child.

In South­west­ern On­tario, po­lice charged seven peo­ple in Lon­don, two in Chatham and Brant­ford, as well as one per­son in each of Strathroy-Caradoc, Wind­sor, Sar­nia, Owen Sound, Wood­stock, Lis­towel and Ex­eter.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say those ar­rested in­clude past and cur­rent 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, de­scrib­ing that fig­ure as “the tip of the ice­berg.”

“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 the 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.”

OPP Staff Sgt. Sharon Han­lon, co­or­di­na­tor of the Pro­vin­cial Strat­egy to Pro­tect Chil­dren from Sex­ual Abuse and Ex­ploita­tion on the In­ter­net, said the peo­ple ar­rested in Novem­ber were di­verse.

She said they came from all walks of life in com­mu­ni­ties across the prov­ince. 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, two of whom are in Lon­don, and one fe­male, she said.

“I think it’s clear that this crime crosses all de­mo­graph­ics of wealth, em­ploy­ment, so­cial sta­tus and age,” she said. “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 noted that in­ves­ti­ga­tors have ob­served a trend to­ward younger vic­tims and more vi­o­lent of­fences in re­cent years.

Since its in­cep­tion, po­lice said, the pro­vin­cial strat­egy has re­sulted in nearly 21,000 charges against 5,686 peo­ple and res­cued 2,009 chil­dren.

SPE­CIAL TO THE TIMES-JOUR­NAL

The OPP and 26 po­lice forces across On­tario an­nounce the re­sults of in­ves­ti­ga­tions in Novem­ber into on­line child sex­ual abuse at a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day in Vaughan.

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