HomeNews2107 arrested in massive Ontario child exploitation investigation

107 arrested in massive Ontario child exploitation investigation

107 arrested in massive Ontario child exploitation investigation

A massive Ontario-wide investigation into child exploitation has led to more than 100 people being charged, police announced on Wednesday.

OPP Det. Insp. Jordan Whitesell says an investigation in October dubbed Project Maverick led to 107 arrests involving 61 alleged victims.

Whitesell says 428 charges were laid after 255 police investigations across the province.

OPP Chief Superintendent Kari Dart says the investigation involved 27 police forces as part of Ontario’s provincial strategy to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation on the internet.

Police say the accused in the investigation are all between 18 to 86 years of age, while the alleged victims range in age from infancy to adulthood.

Whitesell says police forces have seen “huge increases” in the number of victims, arrests, charges laid, police investigations and repeat offenders related to child exploitation since 2006.

Arrests in Toronto
Toronto Police arrested 23 of the suspects who are facing 96 charges.

“These offences include the possession, accessing, importing, distribution and the making of child pornography, said Det. Sgt. Barb Adam in a news conference.

Toronto police say their service conducted 24 search warrants in 20 days, arrested 23 people and laid a total of 96 criminal charges in the initiative. The police service also seized 131 devices containing images of child sexual abuse and exploitation, identified 22 victims and safeguarded 10 children.

“These offences include possession, accessing, importing, distribution and the making of child pornography, luring a person under 16, invitation to sexual touching, sexual assault, sexual interference and failing to comply with court order,” Adam said.

In one instance, Toronto police were able to identify a person of interest online who was allegedly planning to kidnap and abuse young children, Adam said.

“TPS and OPP members investigated the information and were able to identify the accused in his location. A team consisting of both TPS and OPP investigators travelled to a remote northern Ontario town, executed two search warrants and made an arrest,” she said.

Toronto police say they also worked with international partners to track down a suspect on the dark web, who was planning on kidnapping and abusing young children. Toronto police and the OPP investigated the accused’s location and travelled to a remote Northern Ontario town to execute two search warrants and arrest the suspect, police say.

Child exploitation on the rise
The arrests come as police say sextortion and self-exploitation among children and teens are on the rise.

Sextortion occurs when an individual meets victims on social media and convinces the victims to share sexual images or videos with them. Police say threats are made to the victims if they do not provide more sexual content or some form of payment.

“Sextortions have increased dramatically around the globe in the past few years. Recently, we’ve seen a shift to an increase in the number of young teenage boys being targeted,” Adam said.

Since the provincial strategy began in 2006, police have laid more than 24,600 charges against 6,540 people.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the abuse of a child to contact their local police force, call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit cybertip.ca.

Keeping children safe
When it comes to keeping children safe, Toronto police recommend parents have an open mind to communicate with their children so they feel safe to come to them when in trouble.

Police also say parents should have some control over their kids’ devices.

“The children shouldn’t have devices in their bedrooms,” said Adam.

“They shouldn’t have them in the washroom. There should be some sort of supervision if possible with the devices and perhaps at night those devices are taken from the kids and locked up overnight.”

This article was reported by the Canadian Press and CP24.