A 39-year old Strathcona County man has been arrested after allegedly luring and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl from Edmonton.
Detectives with the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) say Sean Palylyk exchanged sexually explicit messages with the girl for two years before they began meeting in person.
Sgt. Mike Lokken with ALERT said the girl was 13 when the two first began talking online, and was nearly 15 when the two met for the first time.
He said the girl's parents had no idea their daughter was communicating with the 39-year-old man.
Officers searched Palylyk’s house, where they collected several electronic devices before beginning their forensic examination.
Palylyk has been been charged with sexual assault, sexual interference, luring a child and possession of child pornography.
Lokken says this is a crime that is becoming more common.
"We find that a lot of young people are getting to know people or getting to trust people, I should say, online," he said.
Lokken says online predators are systematic. They spam teens for friend requests and create fake accounts to make themselves appear to be the same age.
Police advise parents to get passwords for their kids' digital devices, tell their children to never send explicit photos and teach them about the dangers of the internet. Parents should also ask questions about who their children are associating with online, Lokken said.
"Not only know who your children's friends are, know who their online friends are as well."
While this advice may seem obvious to an adult, the message isn't always getting through to the young people who need to hear it the most.
High school students CBC spoke to on Friday say they would never share inappropriate photos or befrend a stranger online, but they know plenty of people who have.
"It's kind of normal nowadays," Abby Kohler said. "We weren't really in shock but it's still not OK."
A spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing, and more victims may still be identified.
ALERT says the investigation was triggered after examining evidence from an unrelated case.
An earlier version of this story identified the man in custody as Sean Palylk, based on information provided by the ALERT team. Officials have now corrected the spelling of the man's name to be Sean Palylyk. The story has been updated to reflect the change.May 30, 2014 11:14 AM MT