Quebec cops and schools are implementing a plan to curb sexting among high school students
The Quebec provincial police (SQ) along with the top prosecutors (DCPP) in the province are taking aim at the growing sexting phenomenon among adolescents and warning them of the repercussions of sending illicit photos online or between smartphones.
SQ spokesperson Benoit Richard said Project SEXTO allows police and school staff to work together to draw attention to the issue, warn of potential repercussions and curb the spread of illicit photo and video sharing among minors.
"We want the actions regarding the exchange of those pictures to be taken very seriously," said Richard.
Those under 17, who take an illicit picture and send it to someone else can be charged with producing and distributing child pornography, Richard said.
Project SEXTO provides an option for school staff to intervene in a different way than the potentially long, costly and arduous legal process.
Nous vous invitons à consulter le site officiel du #Projetsexto afin d’en apprendre davantage sur le nouveau projet implanté par la Sûreté du Québec en collaboration avec le DPCP et nos partenaires des écoles.https://t.co/dhuAHOpkJB— Sûreté du Québec (@sureteduquebec) November 6, 2020
"When a school finds a kid that has a picture, he seizes everything and writes down all the information inside the SEXTO kit, calls the police, we seize everything and send everything to the crown prosecutor," said Richard.
The next step is to determine whether the sexting was an impulsive act or a malicious one.
If the interveners find its was impulsive, an officer meets with the youth and his parents to detail what action will be taken, what are the consequences and what are the possible injuries to the victim.
The timeline for the intervention is four days.
If the sexting is found to be malicious, criminal accusations may follow. This process can take over a year, which Richard said often does not improve the accused person's behaviour.
"You have to have consequences that are very close in time to the action," said Richard. "If you give the consequences one or two years later, it doesn't change things."
The project was originally designed by the Saint-Jerome Police Department in 2016.
Of 571 sexters caught between 2016 and 2020, 67 per cent were dealt with using the SEXTO kit, Richard said, and there was only a 1.7 per cent recidivism rate for those not hauled through the legal system.
"It shows that the project works, and it has great options for us," he said. "We're very happy to put it in action in Quebec in all of our stations."
Police officers and school staff will be trained and can adapt interventions to the adolescents concerned.