A special unit has been formed to deal with the particularly challenging investigation of sex crimes on the West Shore.
West Shore RCMP created a Special Victims Unit (SVU) made up of a corporal and two constables overseen by the West Shore RCMP Serious Crimes staff sergeant, currently Staff Sgt. John Ferguson.
“We determined there was a need for a specialized unit to handle some of these investigations as they are very complex in nature. Often, sexual offence investigations require a significant amount of time, making it difficult for frontline officers to investigate while also responding to other calls for service,” Ferguson said in a news release.
In 2021, West Shore RCMP investigated 106 reports involving sexual offences including assault, interference, invitation to sexual touching, child abuse, luring and voyeurism. RCMP emphasized the new unit does not change how sexual offences are reported to police.
SVU officers are specifically trained in critical investigative techniques including interviewing children, writing search warrants, and monitoring victims who are at risk of being re-victimized, police said. SVU investigators routinely connect with other agencies who provide supports to victims as well as hold training sessions with frontline officers to ensure investigations are conducted from a trauma-informed perspective.
The 106 sexual offences investigated in 2021 does not include child pornography-related investigations handled by the Serious Crimes Unit. A significant portion of the Serious Crimes Unit resources goes into investigating offences related to child pornography.
In 2021, the unit investigated 22 child pornography, possession/acquisition and distribution files. That number jumped to 41 files as of December and West Shore RCMP expects the number to continue to rise.
In November, an 18-month jail sentence was handed down to a West Shore man convicted of being in possession of child pornography. “Similar to sexual offence investigations, reports of child pornography are very heavy on police resources with officers having to obtain search warrants, conduct surveillance, as well as engage tech crimes specialists to examine digital data,” Ferguson said.
The investigation took 2.5 years.
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