Ontario child porn probes lead to 122 arrests
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.
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.