Note: This story contains scary language and subject matter.
The Region of Waterloo saw a 48% increase in its rate of police-reported offenses for accessing or possessing child pornography in 2020.
The rate per 100,000 people has increased from about 25 offenses in 2019 to 37 in 2020, according to figures from the Waterloo Regional Police Service.
The rate of offenses for manufacturing or distributing child pornography has increased even more, although there have been fewer incidents overall. The rate per 100,000 population was 0.67 in 2019 and 3.47 in 2020.
“It’s a horrible problem,” said Waterloo Regional Police Sgt. Brian Duyn, who worked in the homicide field before starting his role with the Police Cybercrime Unit.
“I knew it would be bad, but I had no idea it would be that bad – the type of material and its volume.”
Last year, Waterloo region had the highest rate of Ontario’s 12 largest municipal police services for offenses related to accessing or possessing child pornography. It was also above the provincial and national rate for this type of police-reported crime.
However, the increase is not limited to the region of Waterloo.
While many crimes declined during the pandemic, Statistics Canada says the national rate of police-reported child pornography incidents increased 23% in 2020.
Since 2008, the agency has noted that the rate of this type of crime has generally been on the rise.
Why is this happening?
It’s hard to say, says Duyn.
The pandemic may have played a role, given the amount of time people, including children and youth, have spent online.
The police may also discover more of these violations.
In a typical WRPS investigation, Duyn said the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children would get advice from a social media platform that it had detected child pornography on the site. someone’s account.
If the person is based in Canada, the tip goes to the RCMP, who further refine it and send the information to local police for investigation.
Over the past few years, Duyn said the process has been streamlined so that investigators get that advice faster than in the past. According to Statistics Canada, the RCMP also transmitted a greater number of these cases to local investigators since 2019.
Locally, the WRPS also added another full-time investigator to Duyn’s team late last year, focusing on online child exploitation.
It helped them make a bigger dent in the investigations, but he said “we could double our unit and not keep pace”.
Monique St. Germain, general counsel at the Canadian Center for Child Protection, said child sexual abuse material – the organization’s term for child pornography – has always existed.
“What the technology has done, however, has made it possible for people with a sexual interest in children to go online, to share these images with each other across borders and in high volumes,” said St. Germain.
“It has only accelerated as technology has improved, the tools people can use to hide their online activities have improved, and the laws have not kept pace.”
St. Germain said the online world is still largely a “lawless space”. It is easy for websites to be created, deleted and moved from one jurisdiction to another where it can be difficult to delete them.
She said there needs to be a global math on the exploitation of children online and how “jurisdictional issues, the reluctance of tech companies to get a handle on this and inconsistent law enforcement” allow her to Continue.
On a more individual level, Duyn urged children and young people to never share intimate images of themselves online and to avoid any apps that involve talking to strangers.
As for adults: “I would just encourage parents to get involved in their children’s online activity,” Duyn said.