SOUTHERN ALBERTA: Kids - keep personal info off the web; parents - keep a close eye on their online activity. That's the advice from Staff Sergeant Steve Lorne, head of Alberta's Integrated Child Exploitation Unit (ICE), a team of police that investigates the sexual exploitation of children through the internet. He says awareness is important, as online predators get more and more technically savvy to duck police efforts.
His comments came after a presentation Wednesday evening to the Lethbridge Police Commission, during which a palpable silent gasp seemed to linger in the room as Lorne used a special computer program to reveal how many thousands of people are typically downloading exploitative pictures of children at any given time in Alberta. It takes his unit about two months to track down and charge each suspect.
"This is real. And we've got to get the message out to youth," he says. "Don't be putting your stuff out there, as far as pictures and things go. And if you ever feel uncomfortable, talk to someone. Whether a parent or an adult, just talk to someone."
Formed in 2006, the unit collaborates with other police agencies across the country and around the world to find predators and rescue child victims. Between 2007 and 2010, the Southern Alberta team of six investigators looked into 782 files and laid 504 criminal code charges.
To try and reduce the number of victims, Lorne is hoping to spread the prevention message further by working with schools across the province. He's scheduled to meet with the Alberta Teachers' Association next week and will meet with a Lethbridge school superintendent as well to encourage them to teach prevention in classrooms.
As for what families can do at home, Lorne's message is simple. "Parents have just got to be parents. Monitor what your kids are doing," he says. "Just because you bought your kids a computer, doesn't mean to you can leave them to themselves. Just be a parent. That's all I can say."