“Operation Snapshot: Timeline of a child porn investigation” by By Alison Crawford, Sara Brunetti

The fight to bring predators to justice often begins online. Toronto police officers describe the tactics used to locate and charge child pornography users. This is an excerpt from a recent article published by CBC News. The source of this excerpt is http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/operation-snapshot-timeline-of-a-child-porn-investigation-1.2684442

Toronto police Det. Const. Chris Purchas discovered an IP address downloading and distributing child exploitation material. (Marc Robichaud/CBC). Image courtesy of CBC News.

Toronto police Det. Const. Chris Purchas discovered an IP address downloading and distributing child exploitation material. (Marc Robichaud/CBC). Image courtesy of CBC News.

A major child pornography bust that led to the rescue of New Brunswick girl all started with a tip from a Toronto police officer who was perusing a file-sharing website and found a vast collection of child exploitation material from a single IP address.

It was just one of several shocking cases uncovered in a national RCMP sweep called Operation Snapshot.

Here is a timeline of the investigation that followed, to which a small team from CBC News was granted exclusive, behind-the-scenes access.

Day 1: Tip from Toronto

Toronto police Det. Const. Chris Purchas is a veteran online child exploitation investigator on secondment with the RCMP’s National Internet Child Exploitation Centre in Ottawa.

On April 5, he noticed an IP address with a large collection of disturbing child pornography images.

Purchas discovered the account holder was in the area of Moncton, N.B. He passed the tip on to the RCMP’s internet child exploitation unit in New Brunswick, led by Cpl. Jean-Marc Paré.

“The internet has no boundaries and the police world has understood that,” said Paré, whose unit handles between 80 and 100 cases a year.

Const. Tonia Williams briefs the rest of the RCMP team on a search planned for a residence in Moncton, N.B. (Marc Robichaud/CBC). Image courtesy of CBC News.

Const. Tonia Williams briefs the rest of the RCMP team on a search planned for a residence in Moncton, N.B. (Marc Robichaud/CBC). Image courtesy of CBC News.

Day 18: IP address is ‘just the start’

The case was then assigned to RCMP Const. Tonia Williams, an investigator in Moncton.
[…]

“There are new images and videos unfortunately appearing on the internet every day, every minute, as we speak. Because everywhere in the world, there is a child who is being sexually abused, and these images and videos are actual recordings of crime scenes.”

Williams prepared a Law Enforcement Request – a two-page, warrantless request to get the account holder’s name and address from their internet service provider.

Day 33: Prepping for a search

Once Williams had a search warrant, she and Paré put together a team of RCMP officers to help execute it. The team was comprised of other internet child exploitation investigators, two local RCMP members and officers from the tech crimes unit.

The team’s goal was to find child exploitation material in the home.

“In order for the arrest to take place, we just have to be able to substantiate one piece of the warrant,” said RCMP Cpl. Aaron Gallagher of the tech crime unit based in Fredericton.

Another key consideration in planning the search: the child Williams observed during her surveillance.

“Our goal is to conduct the search without the child being there, so we don’t subject any child to her home being searched by police officers,” said Williams.

Cpl. Aaron Gallagher in the tech crime lab in Fredericton, where technical devices can be digitally copied and the raw data examined. (Marc Robichaud/CBC). Image courtesy of CBC News.

Cpl. Aaron Gallagher in the tech crime lab in Fredericton, where technical devices can be digitally copied and the raw data examined. (Marc Robichaud/CBC). Image courtesy of CBC News.

Day 34: ‘We’re here to execute a search warrant’

[…]

Cameras were found throughout the house, including under tables, in the shower, even wired up through the heating and ventilation units in the house and mounted inside wall plugs in bedrooms. The computers were collecting their video feeds.

On one of the many computers, investigators were able to find an image listed on the search warrant.

Less than an hour after the officers arrived, a man in his 30s is taken into custody and charged with possession and making available child pornography.

[…]

“A lot of people think that just viewing child exploitation material and downloading it and sharing it is a victimless offence,” says Gallagher. “But somebody had to be in that video. So that’s our goal, to eventually wiggle our way through and find out where that video was recorded or created and hopefully save someone on the other end.”

This is a significantly shortened excerpt. To read the full article, please visit the CBC News website http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/operation-snapshot-timeline-of-a-child-porn-investigation-1.2684442

Alison Crawford and Sara Brunetti are reporters for CBC News.