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Over 20 arrests for online child exploitation so far this year: ALERT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Police services across Alberta say they’ve already had a record number of arrests for online child exploitation this year.

The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) said 24 people have been arrested so far in 2021, with over 60 charges laid through the Internet Child Exploitation Unit (ICE).

“This is a concerning consequence of our digital dependency during the pandemic,” said ALERT CEO Supt. Dwayne Lakusta. “ALERT has responded by directing more tools and resources to our ICE units and we are prepared to travel to every corner of the province in order to stop child sex predators.”

ALERT said that last, The ICE unit experienced a nearly 40 per cent increase in the number of case referrals with 2,136. That’s compared to 1,555 in 2019.

“The sexual exploitation of children is a crime that tears at the fabric of society and preys on our most vulnerable,” said Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu. “Increased provincial funding is enabling ALERT to double the size of its ICE unit, ensuring it has the tools and resources to track down predators who commit these heinous acts and bring them to justice.”

Between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31 ALERT said they arrested 24 suspects as the result of investigative referrals from the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.

Of the 24 people arrested, five were from Calgary, six from Edmonton and others from communities like Grande Prairie Medicine Hat and Okotoks. The suspects range in age from 19 to 54.

If you have information about these investigations or any child exploitation offence, you’re encouraged to contact local police or cybertip.ca.