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Vancouver police see spike in cases involving child sex abuse materials

Police board member Allan Black: "Thirty-two per cent [increase] is huge, year over year."
Vancouver police reported 538 cases in 2023 involving child sexual abuse materials. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The number of cases reported to Vancouver police in 2023 that involved videos and imagery depicting sexual acts against children increased 32 per cent from the previous year, according to new data released by the Vancouver Police Department.

A report that went before the Vancouver Police Board Feb. 29 said cases jumped from 408 in 2022 to 538 last year — an increase that concerned police board member Allan Black, who questioned police about the rise in cases.

“Thirty-two per cent [increase] is huge, year over year,” said Black, before asking Police Chief Adam Palmer what the department was doing about the increase.

'Hundreds and hundreds'

Palmer deferred to acting-deputy chief Lisa Byrne, who oversees the work of the VPD’s internet child exploitation unit. Byrne said the team receives a significant number of files each year from the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre that have a connection to Vancouver.

“If it’s got any type of association to an address in Vancouver, they send it to our unit,” Byrne said of the national centre created in 2003 to protect children from sexual exploitation on the internet. “They get way more than we could ever possibly investigate — like hundreds and hundreds of them.”

Byrne said officers will do a risk assessment on each file before prioritizing which cases require immediate attention. She told the board she would later discuss in-camera a case that police began investigating on the day of the meeting.

Patrol officers are also answering calls.

“We’ll often get calls where some child sexual assault material has been exchanged and a parent has become aware of it, or a school counsellor,” said Byrne, adding that the department also monitors convicted offenders living in the city.


In answering a question from Black about the public’s awareness of the growing crime, Byrne said the VPD has run awareness campaigns to protect children from exploitation. School liaison officers also provide information to parents and students, she said.

The report before the police board suggested the increase in cases involving child sexual abuse materials may be attributable to higher reporting rates overall in B.C. The report doesn’t say why more people may be reporting cases to police.

The report also said “sextortion” is becoming a significant and compounding crime trend. The website currently receives an average of 70 weekly sextortion reports involving youth, the report said.

“Sextortion is also a vastly under-reported crime because victims fear stigma or humiliation,” the report said.

“As sextortion cases increase among youth, companies claiming they can delete intimate images for a fee are also increasing. These companies are known as recovery scammers. This recovery scam results in the youth and their families being victimized for a second time.”

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