ICE Unit: dedicated to safety of children and youth

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September 26, is Cybertip.ca Awareness Day – a day to take a stand against online child exploitation and help protect children.

The NT RCMP have always made it a priority to combat child exploitation and reduce youth victimization. Over the years, NT RCMP members have pursued many child exploitation investigations.

As part of this commitment to reduce crimes against children and youth, the Government of the Northwest Territories announced in May 2017 funding for a new unit dedicated to investigations of online child exploitation in the Northwest Territories. The hiring process for the NT RCMP Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit began in 2017, continued through 2018, with the final position being filled in June of 2019.

Corporal Sandi Nischk, the NCO i/c of the NT RCMP ICE Unit says “Often people are surprised when they learn about the unit, stating they didn’t realize that these types of things are happening that often up here.”

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The ICE Unit is comprised of two RCMP Police Officers and one Public Servant Technological Crime Analyst. Their mandate is to investigate crimes including, but not limited to, child pornography, luring, non-consensual distribution of intimate images, sextortion and voyeurism. In addition to enforcement, the ICE Unit also strives to discourage exploitation of children through awareness and education.

“The making and sharing of child sexual abuse images is a global social epidemic that northern Canada is not immune to. While we don’t want to believe things like this happen in our communities, the reality is, it does,” Corporal Sandi Nischk, the NCO i/c of the NT RCMP ICE Unit said. “In addition to sexual abuse, children are re-victimized over and over by the continuous sharing of the abuse material online. Predators rely on secrecy to groom and offend which is why it’s important to report suspicious activity. Sexual attention in any form towards a child is never okay.”

Since its inception, the NT RCMP ICE Unit has investigated several different files, some in continuation of investigations already in process and some newly started. From these investigations, they have laid multiple charges, including charges laid recently against two individuals in Whatì and Fort Smith. The unit also provides expertise and assists detachment investigations, as seen lately in Fort Simpson with charges laid.

To learn more about online risks of apps and gaming platforms, visit National Online Safety’s #wakeupwednesday campaign at nationalonlinesafety.com. Every Wednesday, they produce guides to focus on specific platforms/risks that parents and adults should be aware of.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has tips on how to reduce risks:

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  • Teach your child about personal safety and online safety – visit kidsintheknow.ca for age appropriate resources
  • Learn about behaviours and situations that present risks to children and youth – visit commit2kids.ca for more information
  • Be involved and pay attention to interactions between adults and children
    Supervise your child, know his/her whereabouts and with whom she is building relationships with offline and online
  • Pay attention to changes in your child’s behaviour patterns – it can be a sign that your child may be in distress, often children will communicate more through behaviour than words when distressed
  • Model appropriate boundaries between adults and children
  • Empowering children with knowledge about personal safety and boundaries (age appropriate) can help reduce their risk of victimization.  Research shows that offenders are less likely to target children who present a risk of telling.
  • Sign up for cybertip.ca/alerts to receive notifications informing the public of concerning technology trends and resources designed to increase children’s personal safety.  It can be difficult keeping up with technology and new apps, so signing up for the alerts provides important information to help keep your family safe while using popular platforms on the internet.

Anyone with information on suspicious activity involving child exploitation is asked to call their local RCMP detachment or report it on Cybertip.ca. The NT ICE Unit encourages anybody interested in learning about important topics such as online child exploitation, cyberbullying and internet safety to visit Cybertip.ca and ProtectKidsOnline.ca.

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