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Dozens of suspects charged in sexual abuse investigations

CrimeDozens of suspects charged in sexual abuse investigations

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) charged over 60 individuals in online child exploitation arrests as part of province-wide Project Aquatic.

Members of the OPP-led Provincial Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse and Exploitation on the Internet (Provincial ICE [Internet Child Exploitation] Strategy) took part in child sexual abuse investigations that was both reactive and proactive. The investigations began on February 19, 2024, and ended on February 29, 2024, with investigators identifying and arresting those making, possessing and distributing child sexual abuse material. The identified victims were provided victim support, and impacted children were safeguarded.

As a result of Project Aquatic:

  • 34 victims were identified
  • 30 children were safeguarded
  • 64 people were charged
  • 348 charges were laid
  • 607 electronic devices were seized

Notably, during the investigation, one individual set up a meeting with undercover investigators intending to meet with a child in real life for a sexual purpose. Another individual was in possession of approximately 21 terabytes of data containing child sexual abuse material.

“Our collective strength lies in our ongoing commitment to protect children from the impacts of sexual exploitation. Through the Provincial ICE Strategy, we stand together in supporting victims, preventing victimization, and dismantling predatory activities. We are unrelenting in our mission to safeguard children and hold perpetrators accountable,” said OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique.

During the media event, a human-sized graphic displayed an iceberg, showing the 129 investigations completed during Project Aquatic and the 8,638 investigations completed in 2023 above the surface. In addition, 82,082 investigations were completed between 2006 and 2023 by the Provincial ICE Strategy’s 27 police services, representing the bottom of the iceberg beneath the water. Within that period, 29,025 charges were laid against 7,493 people.

“Child sexual exploitation is a grave crime with lasting effects. We’re dedicated to prevention and accountability. We need everyone’s support to combat this community issue. If you see something, report it. Together, we can create a safer environment for all children, ensuring their well-being and protection,” added OPP Detective Staff Sergeant Tim Brown, Provincial ICE Strategy Lead.

These completed investigations demonstrate the scope of the issue regarding child sexual abuse material, which remains a pervasive safety issue that is often unseen by many members of the public. Police members acknowledged the significant contributions of parents, educators, child advocacy organizations, government and technology providers in combating this issue.

“When a child is being sexually abused, technology is likely being used to facilitate the ongoing harm. Survivors of child sexual abuse material have repeatedly said how important it is to get the images and videos of their abuse off the internet. Our agency sends 20,000+ removal notices to hosting providers every day. In addition to the critical efforts of police, you can help protect a victim by reporting to Cybertip.ca if you are concerned about someone’s online interaction with children,” said Signy Arnason, Associate Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection

Provincial ICE Strategy members urge all parties to remain vigilant and to intensify their involvement to further strengthen the collective effort to protect children from victimization. Members of the public are invited to learn about how to keep children safe at Canadian Centre for Child Protection or cybertip.ca.

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