The distribution of child pornography has seen a ‘steady increase’ in the North over the past five years according to police; now a dedicated unit is being formed to combat it.

“We’ve noticed an increase in online activity involving children, distribution of child pornography, child luring, distribution of intimate images, extortion, those kinds of things in the North,” said RCMP Sgt. Bruce McGregor.

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McGregor believes the increase is due in part to the growing accessibility of the internet within Northern communities, making it easier for Northern youth to connect with strangers online.

“It’s creating an environment inviting for nefarious people to take advantage of certain situations,” he said.

Funding has been announced for the creation of a three-person Internet Child Exploitation Unit (ICE) in Yellowknife dedicated to investigating these types of cases.

The Department of Justice will contribute $429,000 (or 70 per cent) of the cost of the unit, while the remaining 30 per cent will come from the federal government.

Before, tackling child pornography was a task carried out by the RCMP’s major crimes unit, something McGregor said was difficult to handle.

“These types of investigations are very complex, and we have very limited resources here,” he said.

“It does require a fair bit of training and development internally to have an investigator properly investigate these types of activities.

“With the increase in these types of activities in the North and the need for technical investigators … and to do all that in-house in the Northwest Territories, we saw the need for funding for a dedicated unit towards this.”

With the dedicated unit, McGregor says major crimes will have more time to investigate additional cold cases and current homicide investigations among other things.

It will also allow members of the unit to focus on educating Northern youth about safety online.

“Having that dedicated unit is going to allow us the time to get out there and basically, for lack of anything better, to talk to people, get into schools, talk to children who are currently online using the internet,” McGregor said.

“We can certainly relay some key messages to them that they should be following, and also for parents, what they should be doing in terms of monitoring their children in their online time.”