Port Moody police will be getting training and tools to help combat online predators who exploit children.
Port Moody Police Department is receiving $31,250 over two years to deal with the growing problem of online exploitation after a needs assessment conducted of resources in its integrated Child Exploitation (ICE) unit, according to the ministry of public safety and solicitor general.
The funds come at a time when youth are spending more time on line due to the pandemic and local advocates are warning parents to be more aware of what their children are doing when using chat functions via games and texting.
The funding, accessed through Public Safety Canada, will provide additional resources to PMPD for for staffing, equipment and training. It will enhance their response to investigations above and beyond the baseline support provided by BC RCMP's Integrated Child Exploitation (ICE) unit, according to a press release from the B.C. government.
45% RISE IN REPORTS OF EXPLOITATION IN B.C.
The BC RCMP ICE unit has noted a 45% rise in reports of exploitation, including child luring, grooming and child sexual exploitation material, from March to May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
During those months, B.C. schools were mostly closed due to COVID-19 and children were learning remotely.
"New social media applications create new opportunities for predators to target and exploit children online. As social media continues to grow, it's important for police in B.C. to keep pace and prevent the victimization of children," said Howard Chow, president of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police. "We welcome the new funding from government and know it will go a long way in assisting detectives tasked with the very difficult job of investigating this horrendous crime."
The additional funding to PMPD and 10 other independent police departments will help support B.C. and Public Safety Canada's efforts to raise awareness, reduce stigma around reporting and increase Canada's ability to pursue and prosecute offenders.
One local group is lauding the effort to strength local police efforts to combat online child exploitation.
“This funding speaks to the increasing prevalence of online child exploitation. We all need to work together to combat it. Giving local police the education and support they need is vitally important,” said PLEA Community Services program manager Camila Jimenez, who leads the organization’s Children of the Street program.
Jimenez, whose group recently conducted the Dangerously Cute public awareness campaign to warn about the potential of predators using online games to target children, said it’s important to teach children the warning signs and what to do if they experience online exploitation.
Here are her tips:
• Be curious and non-judgmental as to how your child is spending their time online, and who they are with when they are doing so.
• Listen to your gut instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, act on it.
• Make sure your child knows what they should and shouldn’t share with people they meet online.
• Create a safety plan together as to steps you will both take to keep your child safe while they are online.
• Make sure your child knows they can come to you for help and that you won’t be angry with them.