Niagara part of province-wide child exploitation bust

Provincial police say statistics from a single month's worth of child exploitation investigations show the issue remains a major problem in Ontario and beyond.

As part of a bid to raise awareness of child exploitation, the Ontario Provincial Police released figures from the month of November.

During that 30 day stretch, the OPP and its 26 regional partners across Ontario laid 551 charges against 122 people while identifying 55 alleged child victims and referring them for help.

In Niagara, the Niagara Regional Police arrested seven people.

Five adult men and two young persons are charged with a combined total of 27 offences, including sexual interference, sexual assault, luring a person under 18, luring a person under 16, invitation to sexual touching, making available child pornography, possession of child pornography, accessing child pornography, extortion, non-consensual distribution of intimate images and harassing telecommunication. 

Investigators say those arrested include past and present teachers, emergency services personnel, military members and others active in local communities.

They say officers identified 834 unique IP addresses accessing child pornography during November alone, describing that figure as ``the tip of the iceberg.''

Investigators say anyone who accesses child pornography online is complicit in the abuse and constant revictimization of children, some of whom were as young as three years old.