Police probe reveals ‘disturbing’ online trade in child porn in B.C.

RCMP uncover 1,200 instances of B.C. residents using peer-to-peer networks to transfer child porn photos and videos

RCMP say a six-month investigation last year uncovered 1,228 incidents of B.C. residents illegally sharing “troubling” child pornography, including photos and videos of child sexual abuse, using peer-to-peer networks.

New crime rate data released today by Statistics Canada show child pornography cases reported by police more than quadrupled from 300 in 2013 to 1,271 in 2014.

But RCMP Insp. Ed Boettcher said the numbers don’t necessarily reflect a spike in actual activity but rather a better baseline estimate following the project by the B.C. Integrated Child Exploitation Unit.

“It was certainly eye opening to me,” Boettcher said. “It more accurately reflects the the scope of the issue.”

Officers with the B.C. ICE unit had tracked internet addresses of B.C. computers trading in known illegal material using online networks.

It was the first broad sweep of its kind and revealed what Boettcher called a disturbing and tragic level of activity.

“These are crimes against children, they’re serious and they result in life-long emotional scars,” he said. “The internet is forever.”

The surge in activity uncovered was not matched by a major rise in culprits caught – a total of 107 accused pornographers were charged last year, up modestly from 2013.

But Boettcher said more are expected as police continue their investigations.

He said the probe has led to charges against 18 accused and two have already been convicted.

Violators who hide behind a computer screen can expect to lose their anonymity when they’re caught, he said.

“Our initial investigation provided us a rough location of where these offences were occurring. We are now pursuing these investigations,” Boettcher said.

“For those that think they can engage in this type of criminal act and hide, you should know that we have the expertise to find you.”

He also urged residents and business owners to monitor their computers for illegal activity and use strong password protection to secure wireless networks so they can’t be used for criminal file-sharing.