Regina ICE unit warns about exploitation of children over the Internet

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Warning: Readers should be advised that some of the details in this story may be disturbing.

Cst. Peter Froh of the Regina Police Service's Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit spoke atLindale Elementary School on Wednesday evening.

The number of police files involving child pornography is increasing, according to Cst. Peter Froh of the Regina Police Service's Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit.

"We're fighting a losing battle on our end," he explained. "There's an awful lot of child pornography out there."

On Wednesday, the ICE unit gave a presentation to about 40 people gathered at the Lindale Elementary School gymnasium.

The presentation touched on the scope of the problem, and what parents can do to keep their children safe.

Froh detailed one example that showed how quickly an Internet predator can target a child.

It started at 6:12 p.m., with a message saying, "Hi."

The intended recipient - a 10-year-old girl - responded with "hey."

Within 40 minutes, the Internet predator told her "your sexy." (sic)

In an hour, the girl sent a picture of her head and shoulders.

The predator sent back a fake picture of a male teen dressed only in shorts, and said he'd show her all if she did.

The next day, she sent back a picture revealing parts of her naked body. He then pressured her for more, saying he would post it publicly unless more were posted.

She did. The police later learned that she thought he would find her if she didn't do as instructed.

The story, unfortunately, didn't end as some would hope. 

As Froh told it, the suspect lives in Ireland, and will likely never been prosecuted.

Finding these types of individuals is a global problem. Froh said he is investigating a case where the suspect is likely in Jordan, and has travelled to Thailand for another file.

Internet child exploitation is not only a global problem, but shockingly common.

Froh pointed to statistics that said that half of children aged 11 to 14 have received at least one unwanted sexual comment online. (Froh believes it is likely higher, at around three quarters.)

As part of his PowerPoint presentation he showed research into how many potential prosecutable child pornography-related Internet searches happened at one point during a single week.

In Moose Jaw, there were 19 such dots rising from the city.

He also told the crowd there were 120,00 searches daily for child pornography, and that there were 14 million sites that depicted sex with children.

This leaves scars on child pornography's young victims.

A 10-year-old victim told the Saskatchewan ICE unit that she wanted to see her abuser, Matthew, punished.

"Since Matthew put those pics on the Internet my abuse is still going on," she was quoted as saying. "People want to see me abused."

For Froh, preventing children from falling victim to these predators is key.

 "Prevention is really the key to solving social issues," he said.

In line with that, he encouraged parents to monitor their children's Internet usage. He asked them to watch their kids usage, and familiarize themselves with icons for social media programs, since that is often the only way to determine what's on a child's phone or not.

Froh also asked parents that they should show that they don't intend to punish kids for being truthful, and to ensure that communication remains as open as possible with careful, non-threatening language.

Froh pointed to websites like www.needhelpnow.ca and www.cybertip.ca as useful resources for information, and as a way to report abuse.

One of the last questions asked by a member of the crowd was what police or schools needed to help in their efforts.

"I don't know," responded another officer, Cpl. Shane Barber. "We just got to hug our kids and take good care of them."

Organizations: Lindale Elementary School, PowerPoint, Saskatchewan ICE

Geographic location: Regina, Ireland, Jordan Thailand Moose Jaw

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