Police have charged 14 Alberta men with online child sexual exploitation following a lengthy investigation.
The suspects, who range in age from 26 to 61, live in communities across northern Alberta. All were arrested between June and October and together face a total of 33 charges.
There is no connection between the men, aside from the offences they were charged with, Insp. Dave Dubnyk told a news conference in Edmonton on Wednesday.
"Our forensic technicians are still examining the more than 250 computers, cellphones and electronic devices that were seized," said Dubnyk of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams/
"To date, they have found up to 25,000 photos and videos. Each of those photos represents a real world victim."
In the past six years, ALERT's Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit has seen a 75-per-cent increase in cases, Dubnyk said.
He said catching these types of offenders is better left to professionals than to groups such as Creep Catchers, where vigilantes bait suspects by posing online as underage people and filming the encounters.
"There's just so many components to it," he said. "Not just the matter of tracking these people down, and in some instances publicly shaming them. There's victim management, there's offender management. There's just so many parts to it that I can't stress enough that this is work that should be left to professionals."
Lianna McDonald, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, recommended people report suspected crimes to police.
"We do need to identify those offenders who are committing these terrible crimes against children," she said.
"But it's also important to note that those who are in possession of this type of content are the same people that we need to pay attention to and make sure that we are taking action in terms of reporting."