The federal government will provide $800,000 to B.C. police following a year that saw child exploitation offences rise by 45 per cent.
The B.C. RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation (ICE) unit noted a jump in reports of exploitation, including child luring, grooming and child sexual exploitation material, between March 2020 and May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
“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. 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 province said.
“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 of the 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 offences and increase Canada’s ability to pursue and prosecute offenders, according to the province.
The independent police departments receiving funding are Abbotsford, Central Saanich, Delta, Nelson, New Westminster, Oak Bay, Port Moody, Saanich, Vancouver, West Vancouver and Victoria/Esquimalt.
The BC RCMP ICE unit was created in 2004 and supports all B.C. law enforcement agencies. It works with municipal partners, in collaboration with the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, to combat online child sexual exploitation.