Fredericton man accused of luring teenage girls with Snapchat
Cybersecurity expert says parents should be wary of children's social media use
A 20-year-old Fredericton man has been charged with 19 offences, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation and child luring by telecommunication, RCMP say.
Police allege the man targeted teenage girls by using the "Add friends nearby" function on Snapchat in school areas.
RCMP received a report earlier in June about three girls in the Oromocto area being approached by an individual on the social media channel, the force said in a news release.
The girls all reported meeting with a man between April and June, when they were sexually assaulted, according to the news release.
Investigators say there are potentially other victims and are asking for help from the community.
"We need to talk to anyone who had interactions with this person to further our investigation," said Cpl. Hans Ouellette. "We need you to know that you can come to the police. You will be heard, and you will be treated with respect and compassion."
The man who allegedly lured girls via Snapchat is also charged with sexual exploitation, sexual interference of a minor, possession of a firearm for a dangerous purpose, and uttering threats, police said.
David Shipley, a cyber security expert in Fredericton, said predators use social media to lure children too often, especially in Canada.
"It's extraordinarily disturbingly common. There are numerous cases in Canada … with the commonality being criminals using technology, social media sites, Snapchat as well, to target children."
Parents urged to talk to kids
Shipley said parents should be wary of their children's social media use, in terms of physical safety, privacy and mental health.
"Parents need to have age-appropriate, positive conversations with their children about technology, sexuality and about decision making and risk. … If you're not actively protecting your child and having those conversations, nobody else is.
"And these predators are out there. There are more and more of them."
Government laws rule the way social media companies behave, so the government could tighten up regulations too, said Shipley, adding that social media apps can also play a part in protecting children.
"We need better laws. I think there's more work that needs to be put into that law and into regulation, into holding companies accountable when they roll over features that they know, or they reasonably ought to have known, could present a significant risk to children."
In a Moncton case, up to 2,000 boys were victims of a man impersonating a teenager and luring boys into sharing intimate images.
"New Brunswick has had some of the most horrific cases of children being victimized, both here and abroad, by criminals," Shipley said.
Police are looking to speak with anyone who may have had interactions with an individual on Snapchat with the user names, "M_vixin20," or "Abo_issauk."
The individual is believed to have driven a mid or dark grey 2013 four-door Ford Focus, with licence plate JFU 475, according to the news release.
A suspect is in custody pending a bail hearing.