Toronto Police arrested two men of the 60 people taken into custody on child exploitation charges across the province last week.
Walter Bauer, 60, and Northern Secondary School caretaker Giovanni Cover, 52, face possession and accessing child pornography charges. The city residents were arrested by Toronto Police who executed six search warrants as part of the operation. Charges against the others arrested include sexual assault, luring, sexual interference and making child pornography.
The umbrella Provincial Strategy To Protect Children from Sexual Abuse & Exploitation on the Internet led the investigation that resulted in 99 search warrants being executed and 249 charges. Police have also identified 14 victims during the investigation.
Established in 2008, the $5-million Provincial Strategy brings together a team of municipal, regional and Ontario Provincial Police officers, Crown attorneys and victim service providers to investigate child exploitation in the province.
“The janitor was brought to our attention by them,” said Detective Constable Amy Davey, of the Child Exploitation Section. “He was identified and evidence was found on the scene of the search warrant. He was not known to us prior to the arrest."
It’s one of those things that people don’t realize how big the problem is and it’s among all walks of life
Detective Sergeant Kim Gross, who heads the unit, said the school has been notified and a letter has been sent to parents.
“This janitor has worked in different schools for about 10 to 15 years or maybe be more,” she added.
Gross said sexual exploitation of children is a growing problem.
“It’s one of those things that people don’t realize how big the problem is and it’s among all walks of life,” said Gross. “Many of the offenders we have come into contact with are first-timers and this is a small handful of what is out there. We could arrest someone every single day if we had the resources. We just simply don’t.”
An animated map, created by Detective Bill McGarry and Detective Constable Janelle Blackadar, depicts the more than 7,000 individual Internet Protocol (or IP) addresses over a period of 180 days that had been identified as download candidates for suspected child pornography in various urban and rural communities.
“For each person you arrest who is a collector, they hold a number of different storage media. We have to search all of that for possible further victims, look for series and assist with identifying victims. So, it’s not unusual to have a suspect arrested in a search warrant who is holding 20 to 30 different devices. It takes time and resources to go through every single device and we are obligated to do that. There is pressure from the courts in terms of getting those devices forensically examined in a timely way so that it can help with guilty pleas, establish positions for the Crown and lead to meaningful discussions with the defence counsel. So, those pressures come to bear on the investigators in terms of getting the evidence prepared for court.”
Gross estimates her team of 15 investigators spends between 500 to 800 hours each month doing this kind of investigative work.
Their work is both complaint-driven and self-led.
“They take occurrences from the field, tips from Cybertip.ca and the national centre run by the RCMP and we assist a number of jurisdictions,” she said. “We are wearing many hats and there are never enough resources to tackle the problem. But we will always do the best with what we have.”
From its inception in August 2006 to August 2014 - not including this week's activities - the Provincial Strategy has completed 23,581 investigations and laid 8,750 charges against 2,617 people. During that period, 534 child victims have been identified and rescued in Ontario. Another 51 child victims were identified from outside of Ontario.