Thousands of Nova Scotians trading child porn on the Internet

Paul McLeod
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Never-before-released data obtained by the Halifax Daily News shows thousands of Nova Scotians are actively involved in trading child pornography.

Never-before-released data obtained by the Halifax Daily News shows thousands of Nova Scotians are actively involved in trading child pornography.

A national survey by the Toronto Police Department reveals the shocking scope of the online sex trade across Canada. In 2007 there were 5,515 IP addresses from Nova Scotia actively trading child pornography.

IP or Internet Protocol numbers are linked to a specific computer when it connects to the Internet. Some computers have a permanent IP number. Others have the number change periodically.

In Nova Scotia the numbers typically last a few months. But while some IP numbers have doubtlessly been counted more than once, police say the number of porn traders they don't know about should more than makes up for the duplications.

"It's only a small glimpse into what we know is out there. I feel very comfortable in saying whatever number you're provided is probably very conservative," said Det. Sgt. Kim Scanlan of Toronto's Child Exploitation Section.

"We're trying not to send the nation into a frenzy but they need to realize we have a social problem."

In a narrower snapshot, there were 1,720 IP addresses linked to child porn between April 1 and August 1 of 2007.

Toronto police officials didn't go into great detail about the methods used in the survey, so as to not reveal their tactics to child pornography traders. But they did say the data concludes there is easily thousands of people involved in the trade in Nova Scotia.

The total number of people in Nova Scotia responsible for investigating these cases is seven.

The RCMP's Internet Child Exploitation Unit - or ICE Unit - has four investigators. Halifax Regional Police have three.

"We are overwhelmed," said ICE Unit head Cpl. Dave Fox.

"Every unit across the country is backlogged. For some, months. Some have files that are over a year in the cue."

One positive note for police is that the ICE Unit has a 100 per cent conviction rate. Every person they've charged in relation to child pornography has been convicted, with the exception of three who are currently going through the court process.

But at the Internet Safety Symposium held yesterday in Dartmouth - a national meeting of police, government and internet service provider officials - Fox explained his unit was had too many files to possibly investigate all of them.

Instead, Fox said, they prioritize their investigations based on how likely it is the offender is abusing children in real life.

"This is such a new, emerging crime trend. The scope of it, it's hard to fathom," Fox told the crowd of over 100 people.

As the tactics of online sexual predators has evolved, so have the tactics of police chasing them. Canada now has resources such as cybertip.ca, where people can report online abuses, and the National Child Exploitation Coordination centre, which helps streamline investigations.

But those resources still pale in comparison to the scope of the online sex trade, which is estimated to be worth more than $2 billion worldwide. Many police would like to see more invested into fighting the online sex trade.

"The volume of investigations is beyond the ability of police in Canada to deal with," said Bob Johnson, police liaison for cybertip.ca.

"I can tell you we will never have enough resources to effectively deal with everything we'd like to. But appropriate resources is different from enough resources."

Organizations: Halifax Daily News, Toronto Police Department, RCMP

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Canada, Toronto Dartmouth

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Recent comments

  • Scott
    January 18, 2010 - 11:21

    It would be interesting to see if the computers that are linked to the IP address trading this stuff have been compromised by a hacker of sorts. Knowing very well how poorly people secure their computers I'd bet that the case here

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 11:17

    alan auerbach from Waterloo, ON.....one word (not even a word) to describe your comment...........................HUH?

  • alan
    January 18, 2010 - 11:16

    It may be more than a coincidence that Nova Scotia is the main Canadian jurisdiction in which a woman cannot avail herself of pregnancy-termination services.

  • Akhmed
    January 18, 2010 - 11:15

    Considering the population of NS, this just doesn't even seem possible. There must be a mistake somewhere along the line.

  • Dave
    January 18, 2010 - 11:15

    Firstly, those making comments that there is a preponderance of Child pornographers in NS did not read the article. Secondly as many IT professionals have pointed out, they are probably using sniffing software that tags all IP's that hit pages of known keepers of any pornography or imagery that they feel fall withing the parameters of child porn . This would include accidental clicking on any link that comes into a persons email inbox, pop-ups, banners et. al. If they are stating for the record that without a doubt, they know for sure there are that many people, who sexually exploit or harm children in NS with it's small population base, I cringe at what the numbers nation wide will be.

    They best be cautious about creating another witch hunt The last one saw bad people go to jail, but it also destroyed innocent peoples lives. One man committed suicide. The police apologized for their over-zealousness, but you cannot put those lives back together.

    And as for Gerald Bryant's comments, nice bash on NS...I'd love to see what's on your hard drive :) P.S. I have been to Cranbrook many times (being from B.C.) and I would go easy on the snarky, holier than thou comments if I were you. Sarcasm is not your forte.

  • gerald
    January 18, 2010 - 11:15

    Thousands of people in Nova Scotia trading child pornography pictures on the internet? That is disgusting, and is happening in other places in this Country. Nova Scotia has it's share of perverts no doubt and is not the busiest place in Canada but surely there must be more to do in the Province than look at child porn. Don't you people have Sunday shopping now?

  • Norm
    January 18, 2010 - 11:13

    Rufus from BC Are you new?
    If these people are looking at it on line then chances are they are abusing children around them.

    I say bring back the death penalty!

  • David
    January 18, 2010 - 11:06

    As an IT professional who has been in the industry for +10 years, I have to wonder what methodology was used to collect this data. It is interesting to note that the Toronto police did not disclose their means of getting this data. Make no mistake, child porn is a very serious crime and is disgusting. But I agree with Mr Warham's opinion that the numbers seem high. I have personally seen false positives reported on web traffic when using technology like intrusion detection devices. Depending on what to use for filtering, any webpage can trigger a false positive because technology does lack some logic. For example, you can go to many websites that have very controversial banners. Torrent sites are such examples. So if a user is looking at something on the main page, a banner depicting hot young girls on the side can trigger an alert. While I applaud law enforcement for fighting a war against child porn/exploitation, I have to question the validity of this report. Needless to say, it is important for law enforcement to keep monitoring.

  • M.
    January 18, 2010 - 11:03

    There are four copy editing mistakes in the above article:

    1) should more than makes up for... should be make up for ;
    2) there is easily thousands should be there are easily thousands ;
    3) Some have files that are over a year in the cue. should be queue ;
    4) tactics of online sexual predators has evolved should be ...have evolved .

    Sloppy mistakes like these detract from the content of your articles. Please be more careful.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 11:02

    Hi Dave, I read the article and I believe the main thrust of it was that there are alot of people in NS trading child porn. I quote: Its only a small glimpse into what we know is out there. I feel very comfortable in saying whatever number youre provided is probably very conservative, And also: But while some IP numbers have doubtlessly been counted more than once, police say the number of porn traders they dont know about should more than makes up for the duplications. What exactly is the public to take from that Article? I agree with what you say about a witch hunt. Thousands of NS? Bull Plop!

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:57

    The numbers noted above seem absurd? Thousands of Nova Scotianers are trading child porn? There must be a giant child porn ring right here in the maritimes. If there are thousands in NS there must be thousands in NB, PEI, and NFLD. Makes me think its all bull plop.

    I hate to belittle the problem but wow thousands? I feel as if there is some perspective missing either that or the country should go into a frenzy!

  • Frank
    January 18, 2010 - 10:47

    Very scary ,there is an old expression THEY WALK AMONG US . You would expect the enforcement arm of the law would be hiring private contractors to ferrit out the offenders online and police only required in the arrests and prosecution.Obviously more and better managed resources are required. Law enforcement is the easy part , education and common decency to fellow human beings seems to be the difficult part . IN MY OPINION

  • Kerry
    January 18, 2010 - 10:42

    As long as this country is willing to spend BILLIONS of dollars on a failed policy of criminalizing non violent drug offenders, this problem will never go away. Redirect the money that is being spent on the so called drug war, and concentrate on REAL violent crime. If the sexual exploitation of a child is not a violent crime, then I don't know what is.

    I believe that we can get a grip on this, and it starts with the perpatrators. I would like to think that there are people who have been convicted of sexual exploitation, and who feel terribly humiliated. Lets have those people start telling thier story. Start bringing it into the light.

  • Deb
    January 18, 2010 - 10:40

    I am just as worried about the numbers of people viewing child pornography as i am what happens to them after they are caught.

    The idea that the perp's identity is hidden to protect the victim is fairly old fashioned.

    We need to empower kids into believing that by allowing others to know the name of the person that is doing the victimizing... that child might save countless others from becoming victims as well.

    I am not for the death pentalty but.... i am for public humiliation....

    Make these people stand on a street corner for months holding a sign telling the public what they have done.

    Being held accountable is more than just losing the right of association ....

    it is about being forced to try and feel that you have done something wrong.... and truely wanting to make things right no matter the cost to yourself or your pride...

  • Chad
    January 18, 2010 - 10:34

    Being an IT professional myself, I agree completely with Dave from Amherst.

    It is worth mentioning that many people may not know their computer is being used to transmit nefarious data.

    Online criminal groups write viruses with the aim of taking control of unpatched PCs. Once they assemble a big enough pool of infected machines they rent out these networks to the highest bidder. The renter then uses this network to distribute spam, porn (legal or not) and anything else they can make money from. The people responsible are organized crime groups that are not limited by geographical borders.

    The problem for the police is that they must sort through so much 'junk' data before they find the people who are actually responsible for the crimes.

  • Rufus
    January 18, 2010 - 10:34

    I'm curious how they get their numbers. Does trading include contact between people? Are they including (or are they all) people downloading 20-year-old pictures of nudists where there is no violence or abuse involved? How would criminalizing these people, and ruining their lives and their families, help children that are 10,000 miles away and out of our control? How would it help Canadian children, who are already being abused less than they were, years ago?
    Interesting study with unsurprising results, but ultimately (intentionally?) misleading.