Sixteen men — including two from Red Deer — have been arrested and face child pornography-related offences involving thousands of photos and videos, with some of the victims as young as infants.
None of the cases are linked other than the similar nature of the offences being committed, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
Those charged include Darian Blanchard, 21, and Andrew Halliday, 28, both of Red Deer. Other men charged include one from Strathmore; two from of Airdrie; and 11 from Calgary, including one under the Young Offenders Act.
The people accused are facing a total of 56 child pornography related charges.
Arrests took place in Calgary, Red Deer, Airdrie, and Strathmore, and led to the identification of two underage luring victims. Eleven of the suspects are from Calgary.
Operation Icebreaker was a three-month investigation that began in April by ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) team, targeted suspects accessing child pornography in southern Alberta.
The operation resulted in 25 search warrants executed between April 5 and June 1. More than 500 computers and electronic devices were seized and forensic analysts are in the process of reviewing the large volume of data. To date nearly 7,000 photos and videos containing child pornography have been identified with some of the victims are as young as infants.
Operation Icebreaker was an initiative of the ICE team based in Calgary, which is an integrated unit comprised of officers from Calgary Police, Lethbridge Police, Medicine Hat Police, and RCMP. ICE investigates offences involving child pornography, any computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the Internet, voyeurism involving victims under the age of 18, and child sex trade/tourism.
Operation Icebreaker utilized information from a variety of agencies and partners during the course of the investigation, including RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, Cybertip, Kingston Ontario Police, Bartlett Tennessee Police, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, numerous RCMP detachments, and various social media providers. Anyone with information about these investigations, or any child exploitation offence is encouraged to contact local police or cybertip.ca.
More charges and more arrests are possible following the completion of the forensic examination.
ALERT was established by the Alberta government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.