Child porn probe in Alberta uncovers 'extreme' photos, videos

A seven-month police investigation into child sexual exploitation has netted the arrest of eight Albertans — six of them from Calgary.

Some victims depicted are estimated by police to be as young as 6 months

Det. Justin Brookes was the primary investigator of the investigation that prompted charges for eight Albertans. (CBC)

A seven-month police investigation into child sexual exploitation has netted the arrest of eight Albertans — six of them from Calgary.

The operation focused on "high-level targets" that were sharing and distributing large collections of child sexual exploitation photos and videos, police in Calgary announced Tuesday.

"This is more than just photos of a kid in the bath. This is graphic sexual abuse, even torture, of children as young as infants," said Det. Justin Brookes, who led the investigation by the Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).

Dubbed Operation ICE Storm II, the investigation uncovered more than 14 terabytes of data, which was analyzed by forensic technicians. About 100,000 photos and videos of child exploitation were identified, an official said.

Brookes said it is challenging for police to keep up with the volume of child exploitation images on the internet, with investigations in his department up 40 per cent over the past four years.

"Sadly, the arrest of these eight offenders is a mere drop in the bucket," he said.

"The reality is that child sexual abuse photos and videos are being shared at a growing rate in our communities."

Investigators do not believe any of the victims are from Alberta, or that any hands-on offences took place in the province.

Strong message

The seized images have been submitted to a database operated by the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre for further investigation.

Brookes said that while eight arrests may not seem significant, "we're really hoping … that we send a strong message — that we have no tolerance for people who sexually exploit children. You're not anonymous, we will target you, and bring you to justice."

Here is a look at the investigation by the numbers:

  • Eight Albertans arrested: six from Calgary, one from Chipman and another from Sherwood Park 
  • 16 search warrants executed from September 2014 to March 2015.
  • 85 computers and electronic devices seized.
  • 14 terabytes of data analyzed.
  • 100,000 photos and video of child sexual abuse identified.

An earlier phase of Operation ICE Storm wrapped up in April 2014 with the arrest of 10 offenders.