New funding to help combat online child exploitation
Police in B.C. will soon have more tools to combat child sexual exploitation online with nearly $800,000 from the federal government.
“The pandemic has resulted in an increase in online exploitation activity, which has profoundly devastating and lasting impacts on victims and their caregivers,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Children and youth are spending more time online than ever during the pandemic and, sadly, we also know that this increases their vulnerability to predators looking to take advantage of them.”
The funding, accessed through Public Safety Canada, will provide additional support to 11 independent municipal police departments in B.C., including one in the Kootenays, for staffing, equipment and training. It will enhance their response to investigations above and beyond the baseline support provided by BC RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation (ICE) unit.
The BC RCMP ICE unit has noted a 45% rise in reports of exploitation, including child luring, grooming and child sexual exploitation material, from March to May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
“New social media applications create new opportunities for predators to target and exploit children online. As social media continues to grow, it’s important for police in B.C. to keep pace and prevent the victimization of children,” said Howard Chow, president, BC Association of Chiefs of Police. “We welcome the new funding from government and know it will go a long way in assisting detectives tasked with the very difficult job of investigating this horrendous crime.”
The additional funding to independent police departments will help support B.C. and Public Safety Canada’s efforts to raise awareness, reduce stigma around reporting and increase Canada’s ability to pursue and prosecute offenders.
The independent police departments receiving funding are Nelson, Abbotsford, Central Saanich, Delta, New Westminster, Oak Bay, Port Moody, Saanich, Vancouver, West Vancouver and Victoria/Esquimalt.
Funding is being made available under the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet and through the Contribution Program to Combat Serious and Organized Crime.