Child Sexual Exploitation on the Rise in Brampton and Mississauga

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A new report indicates that child exploitation on the internet is on the rise in the Region of Peel (meaning Brampton and Mississauga).

A recent Police Services Board report finds that more individuals are being charged with child pornography-related offences.

A graphic in the report (seen above) indicates that 48 people were charged in 2017—slightly up from 46 people in 2016. In 2015, 48 people were charged as well.

But while the number fluctuations are small, data indicates that charges related to child pornography offences have almost doubled since 2009, when just 25 people were charged.

That said, the report seems to indicate that more charges are being laid because police have more resources and support at their disposal to investigate online sex crimes.

The report says that the Internet Child Exploitation (I.C.E.) Unit is comprised of one detective and six constables, five of which are assigned as investigators while one is dedicated to "proactive exploitation prevention as an online lurer."

I.C.E., the report says, exists to identify, investigate and arrest persons involved in the online victimization of children.

The unit also works with various international law enforcement agencies, including Interpol, the U.S.A. Department of Homeland Security, the Canadian Border Services Agency, the FBI, the RCMP, the OPP and other local police services. The unit also works with the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP), which operates a national tip line for child exploitation.

According to the report, the unit's capacity has continued to grow while its enforcement success has remained steady through 2017.

"Last year's success was accomplished despite challenges," the report reads. "Organizational need required that the I.C.E. Unit operate under authorized complement for most of the year," adding that two officers were moved to different departments and positions during the year.

"An inability to obtain judicial authorizations for organizations outside Canada (Google, Dropbox, etc.) continues to be a challenge," the report reads. "Investigators have had to rely on the time consuming Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process for soliciting the participation of American law enforcement."

The report says that agents in both Canada and the U.S. are inundated with requests to assist in cross-border investigations, leading to slowdowns.

Other challenges also exist.

"Many offenders have been using digital encryption that cannot currently be defeated, ultimately preventing investigators from obtaining offence-related material," the report reads. "Furthermore, several newer mobile devices cannot be searched as police as unable to defeat their 'lock screens.'"

The report says the CCCP sent 154 reports to Peel police in 2017.

The report also says the unit has been recognized as one of the highest performing ones in the province.

The report also adds that I.C.E. undertook a project focused on file-sharing networks (networks it says are commonly used for sharing sexually exploitative material with children). According to the report, the project led to the arrests of seven individuals who allegedly committed 20 offences.

The report indicates that the unit expects to be able to continue to overcome technological challenges in the future.

"History has shown that the noted technological challenges currently encountered can be thwarted through the collective efforts of law enforcement and NGOs," the report reads. "There is confidence amongst industry peers that this will continue through information sharing within the provincial strategy. The I.C.E. Unit will continue to seek out innovative investigative solutions for its investigators."

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