Computer Crime Research Center


Child porn fight merits police resources

Date: February 16, 2008
By: Joe Ruscitti

When London police Chief Murray Faulkner comes knocking at city hall about this time next year looking for a bigger budget increase than the big budget increase police got this year -- he has already promised to do just that -- we'd like to offer up to councillors one of the first questions to ask.

How much extra will you put into the cyber unit, chief?

This week's child porn bust was the largest ever in the province. As it swept through many Ontario centres, it became perfectly clear, this is not only a London problem.

But, of course, as long as it's happening here -- one of the charged in the sweep was from here -- and as long as the city pays for a municipal police force, it is our problem.

Fresh U.S. research numbers have been tossed around for a few days now, but they bear repeating:

* Child-porn images have been traced to 205,000 Canadian computers, 63,000 in Ontario.

* 15,000 computers in Ontario are using computers to distribute child porn, 4,000 alone in Toronto to trade images of child sexual abuse.

This week's big bust? Twenty-two people, 73 charges, mostly for possessing and distributing child porn.

Who'd disagree it's not enough?

It would be easy to start the blame game, beginning with questions about whether parents are being vigilant enough, whether our school system is teaching enough Internet safety to our kids, whether the Criminal Code is stiff enough.

But that oversimplifies what Lianna MacDonald, who's group runs the online tipline, described as "the complexities and difficulties of trying to manage the sheer volume of people who have an appetite for this kind of material" -- an appetite increasingly easily satisfied via the Internet.

At the news conference announcing the charges, OPP Comissioner Julian Fantino acknowledged police everywhere are in tough trying to stay ahead of rapid technological advances in the labour-intensive work that it takes to track Internet child porn.

Free Press reporter Joe Belanger spent some time this week watching at police headquarters as a man -- since charged -- texted in an online chatroom with an officer posing as a pre-adolescent girl home from school for the day, sick.

In less than three minutes, the chat turned sexual. Belanger asked to see a porn image of the kind the unit sees every day. After one, he asked not to see any more.

On a force of 578 police, the London cyber unit is two full-time officers and six computers. It has charged 20 in the 10 months since it was struck, versus the force's 35 total in the seven years previous.

Marked improvement, but who'd disagree it's not enough?

Tell us what extras you'll give the unit, chief, that we might better agree your budget is not enough.

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