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In March, an effort by the RCMP and police forces across the country featured the arrest of 57 men allegedly involved in Internet child exploitation. The operation was developed by the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre.
Project Salvo was the largest ever co-ordinated investigation into online child sexual abuse in Canada, according to a March 26 Canwest News Service article. The men arrested face more than 100 charges such as sexual assault, sexual interference and possession of, making, and distributing child pornography. More than 130 computers, dozens of hard drives, and many thousand storage devices and media were seized.
"This project is sending a clear message to offenders that they can't hide behind their computers," Saanich (B.C.) police department detective Rob Warren was quoted as saying in the Canwest story. "It is also to let the public know we are taking the abuse of these children seriously and to let them know how to protect themselves."
The agencies involved had not yet had enough time to identify all the victims as of a March 26 Vancouver Sun article. An RCMP spokesperson said the victims typically range from babies to 17-year-olds.
Warren noted that the national investigation focused on the most prolific offenders. As well, it was targeted at people exchanging images online. Saskatchewan Detective Sergeant Darren Parisien, who works with that province's Internet Child Exploitation Unit, said in a CJME Radio website interview that work is continuing and more arrests nation-wide are expected.
While Project Salvo was successful due to the cooperation of various police forces, the officers involved also noted that public involvement is needed. Investigations into Internet-facilitated abuse are helped by tips made to Crimestoppers and cybertip.ca
"If people in the community see a suspicious website or come across a disturbing file on someone's computer, they can report it," Warren said.
The news of the arrests came after a grim report earlier in March by Statistics Canada about cases of online child luring. The federal agency's report stated that two out of three cases are not solved. In 2006 and 2007, 464 incidents were reported. Based on statistical data from the United States, this number might only be 10 per cent of the actual number of child luring incidents that occurred.
The study showed that 64 per cent of child-luring cases are not solved by police. This failure rate is much higher than such crimes as child pornography offences (55 per cent).
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