B.C. child exploitation investigators are sounding the alarm over an increase in predators victimizing and exploiting children and youth online.
During the height of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, police received a spike in online child exploitation reports – but that trend is continuing to rise despite the country turning the pandemic corner.
In 2021, there were 4,600 total reports made to the BC RCMP Integrated Child Exploitation Unit. In 2022, that number doubled to 9,600 reports.
Between Jan. 1 to March 31 of this year, a total of 5,790 reports have already been received.
“Our children are continually being targeted online, and it is important for youth, and their guardians to stay alert,” a statement from the unit said.
“Predators can find ways to have direct contact with youth on various social media platforms, even in the false safety of our physical homes with locked doors. Kids of all ages are increasingly vulnerable in our always-online world.”
The exploitation unit receives referrals from the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, cybertip.ca, Crimestoppers, Interpol and many other international policing partners.
Cpl. Sharen Leung encouraged parents and guardians to talk to children about online safety and be vigilant of unsolicited friend requests.
“Safe online habits can go a long way to protecting kids from exploitation, but parent awareness is also key.”
Black Press Media has reached out to the unit for further details about investigations and charge rates in regards to these reports.