80 people arrested in province-wide child pornography investigation
Chris Fox and Rachael D'Amore, CTV Toronto
Published Thursday, April 28, 2016 11:26AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 28, 2016 6:20PM EDT
Ontario Provincial Police say that 80 people have been arrested following a province-wide investigation into the exploitation of children online, including 8 from Toronto and over a dozen others from across the GTA.
At a news conference on Thursday morning, OPP told reporters that the arrests were made after 174 search warrants were carried out over the last few weeks.
A total of 274 charges were laid against those taken into custody and include sexual assault, making child pornography, possession of child pornography, accessing child pornography and distributing child pornography.
Among those arrested was a former employee at a Milton daycare and a 74-year-old man from Newmarket.
“There’s always been a misconception that a lot of this material is produced in third-world type countries,” Det. Staff Sgt. Frank Goldschmidt told reporters at the news conference. “But it’s in our investigations that we’ve concluded that just as much of that material is produced right here in Ontario.”
OPP said that several drug and weapon charges were also laid.
“This sweep serves as another wake up call to those who commit these monstrous crimes against our children,” Chief Superintendent Don Bell said. “We will do everything we can to combat the threat that these predators pose to our children and our communities.”
The investigation involved a total of 27 police services as well as several other agencies, including the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Homeland Security.
Police said investigators traced 2,038 unique IP addresses that were known to have downloaded or accessed child pornography content over the last 90 days to conduct their investigation. They expect that additional investigations will be carried out in the near future.
During the investigation, police identified 20 victims and were able to secure the safety of nine minors who were working in the sex trade against their will.
Lianna McDonald, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, called the announcement of the arrests an “important day for children in Canada.”
“These people come from all backgrounds and all walks of life,” she added.
Karyn Kennedy, the executive director of Boost Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention, told reporters that the investigation will work to prevent the abuse from reoccurring.
“The impact of Internet exploitation for a child is devastating and while we can’t change what’s happened to that child by arresting the offender, we can stop it from happening to other children,” said Kennedy.
On Tuesday, parents at the Milton Community Resource Centre received an email from the daycare’s executive director notifying them of a police investigation involving child pornography.
A man who previously worked at the daycare was arrested and charged with one count of possessing child pornography and one count of accessing child pornography.
OPP said that this case is one of the 80 arrests made across the province.
Daycare officials say they are working with police and communicating with parents about the case.
“The security of the children we care for is our number one priority,” Rebecca Barrows-Vrankulj said in a statement released Thursday. “News of this investigation is deeply troubling to us and members of the greater Bronte Street School Community.”
“We want to once again reassure the public that the staff person in question has been removed from the premises and will not be returning throughout the duration of the investigation.”
A suspect in the case has been released on a $5,000 bail and is expected to make a court appearance next month.