Hunting sex tourists in Canada and the US
Using technology to cross borders
Participating government bodies
Sex Crimes Unit of the Toronto police
World police have so far identified fewer than 1% of all children in on-line porn, a distressingly low number. Police investigating such cases have always tried to use cues from the pictures of the victims to find out where the crimes took place. For example, a TV in the background could show a news broadcast from a traceable date. The impulse is to release the pictures to a wider public, but even when the faces of the victims are cropped, the ethical issues have always prevented police from pursuing this approach too actively.
Details of campaign
In one case, the Toronto police noticed that pictures in one case were clearly from a hotel room. The first step was to go on-line to chat boards with experts in botany to ask if anyone could identify the plants in the background of the pictures. In this way, the plants in the pictures confirmed that the pictures were taken in North America. The police then released six pictures of the scene of the crime, but – crucially - with the victim digitally removed from the images, leaving a blur at the centre of the pictures, but making the decision to widely release them significantly easier.
Following the release of the pictures to the public on February 3, 2005, the Toronto police received more than 700 tips, with which the scene of one of the crimes was located: a resort hotel in Orlando, Florida. As of this writing, American investigators were combing through guest records hoping to find the perpetrator.
Although the police have stressed the need not to expect any sudden breakthroughs, the case is notable for the following reasons:
- The case has American and Canadian authorities working together in ways not traditionally associated with the jurisdiction and territory issues of law enforcement
- The use of the internet on the one hand, to use chat boards to gather information, and, on the other hand, to spread the photos to as wide an audience as possible was successful in both cases
- The use of technology to completely remove the victim from all pictures removed the ethical restraints of releasing the pictures to as wide a public as possible
Toronto Police Service
Staff Inspector Joe Tomei
40 College Street
Toronto, ON M5G 2J3
Tel: +1 416 808 7474
Fax: +1 416 808 7472