Saskatchewan

Regina's online child exploitation problem would keep 100 new officers busy, says chief

Regina's police chief says the problem of online child exploitation is growing and should receive more resources from the police service, but that in some ways the problem is a bottomless pit.

Chief says new officers coming target people who prey on children

This software program provides a live report of computers that are sharing suspected child pornography. This image shows how many computers were identified in Regina at noon on a Friday. (CBC News)

Regina's police chief says the problem of online child exploitation is growing and should receive more resources from the police service, but that in some ways the problem is a bottomless pit. 

"I honestly feel like I could put 100 police officers into the ICE [Internet Child Exploitation] unit to try and dig into all of these files and they would all have work to do - they would all have case load," said Evan Bray in an interview with CBC.

ICE targets people creating or sharing child pornography or trying to lure children over the internet. Bray was quick to point out the rest of Canada shares the problem with Regina. 

Bray was responding to news that the number of investigations into child exploitation online have doubled over the past five years while the staffing level has remained the same. The Sask. ICE unit currently has 11 uniformed officers. 

ICE is a partnership between the RCMP and police services in Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Regina. Regina itself has 3 officers assigned to the unit. 

Bray said the police service has just completed a review of staffing levels and ICE could well be in line for new members.

Regina's police chief says the problem of child exploitation online is growing but so are several other areas of crime in the city. (CBC News)

"The ICE unit is one area that has been identified in our operation review with a need for expansion. That need right now is cited at the next one to three years," said Bray, who pointed out that plan still requires board and funding approval. 

Bray said staffing the police service is a tough balancing act because crime is increasing in many areas.

"Our stolen autos for example are through the roof. The meth problem in our city is unparalleled to something we've ever seen in terms of drug issues in our city. Firearms in our city continue to be a big issue," said Bray. 

Bray said that, like the growing child pornography problem, drug abuse is also an area that could seemingly take up endless resources. 

"We could be going out and doing enforcement on low-level street buys every day in about 70 areas of the city — that might be low — we get these tips all the time," he said. 

Bray says because of these growing demands and tight budgets, police may have to scale back some of their community outreach services in order to assign more officers to tackle hard crime. 

Bray said that if the police budget isn't increased, the service will, " need [those officers] back into the core of what our organization is."

About the Author

Geoff Leo

Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo has been a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan since 2001. His work as an investigative journalist and documentary producer has earned numerous national and regional awards.

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