The arrest of 22 men, including a 61-year-old Springhill resident, shows that child sexual exploitation is not just a big city problem, and as new technologies emerge law enforcement agencies are forced to adapt their methods to tracking down and taking child predators offline.
The sexual exploitation of children is nothing new and it’s something police agencies have been forced to deal with over the years. We’ve often heard of what happens in red light districts in countries halfway around the world.
Unfortunately because of technology it’s only getting worse. The growth of the Internet and explosion of social media has made the job of police much more challenging. There are numerous websites and message boards on the web and literally thousands of places for child predators to lurk.
As depressing as this message can be, police are taking the issue seriously and numerous police departments have created units specifically designed to patrol cyberspace looking for those individuals who gain satisfaction from looking at, downloading and distributing materials that would sicken most people.
Along with acting on tips, investigators sometimes have to take unusual steps such as impersonating children and working the Internet’s seedy underworld looking for those individuals who are peddling images or attempting to lure victims to meeting with them.
Unfortunately, as the results of Operation Snapshot II indicate, it’s an uphill battle. The multi-jurisdictional investigation laid 64 charges, seized 43 computers and millions of images – just in Atlantic Canada.
Despite this, it shouldn’t be a surprise that law enforcement is only scratching the surface when it comes to reducing the number of explicit images available on the Internet, and those charged in Operation Slapshot II only represent a fraction of those who remain undetected in communities across Atlantic Canada.
This operation will lead to, hopefully strong, punishment against those found guilty in this enforcement action, but it should also raise awareness that police are trying to keep cyberspace as safe as possible. Still, as much as police should be congratulated for their efforts, communities need to take action as well by ensuring these units have the resources necessary to patrol the Internet, investigate leads and prosecute offenders.
And just as police urge people to report suspicious activity on the streets of Amherst and other municipal units, people also need to be prepared to make the same call if they see something suspicious on the streets and back alleys of the village we call the world wide web.