Police in Saskatchewan are using a new software program to hunt people who trade child porn on the internet —and it's showing how widespread the practice has become.

The program, called the Child Protection System, shows exactly where in the province illicit images are being shared.

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The software program gives police a window on how widespread child pornography has become in Saskatchewan. ((CBC))

Sgt. Patrick Nogier, a Saskatoon-based investigator who heads the province's internet child exploitation unit, remembers being surprised the first time he used the software and saw dozens of flags pop up on a map of Saskatchewan.

Each flag represented child porn images being traded.

"Sometimes it can be overwhelming, when you see the type of activity that's going on in your province," Nogier said.

 "When you come from a smaller town, and you think that maybe this activity is limited only to certain metropolises ... but you see, it comes from everywhere in Saskatchewan."

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Sgt. Patrick Nogier says the new program is helping police catch people who deal in child pornography. ((CBC))

The internet child exploitation unit started using the U.S.-developed program last year.

It makes use of police efforts around the world to catalogue child porn images, creating electronic fingerprints to identify the individual pictures.

The Child Protection System software crawls the web and flags when these images are moved between computers.

"If we have people that are out there trading these images, and we have already identified those images as being illegal, that allows us to concentrate our investigation on there," he said.

Police can track the images to unique internet protocol (IP) addresses and an investigation can proceed from there, he explained.

In some cases, police are able to obtain a search warrant and a person's computer will be seized.

The software is one reason why the unit's caseload has doubled from 2009 levels, to about 110 active files.

Saskatchewan police are now training others officers in other provinces on how to use it.