Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced earlier this year $1 million through Budget 2013 to create a new Task Force on Child Exploitation and Drugs. From left are: RNC Chief of Police Robert Johnston; Dunderdale; Justice Minister Darin King; and RCMP Assistant Commissioner and Commanding Officer, RCMP B Division - NL, Tracy Hardy. — File photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
During cabinet meetings this week in Bonavista, Premier Kathy Dunderdale and provincial ministers were given up update by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) regarding the accomplishments of the new Joint Task Force on Child Exploitation and Drugs.
Dunderdale said in a news release the establishment of the joint task force earlier this year sends a strong message to offenders that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador "will not tolerate illicit drug trafficking, nor will they tolerate the harm or abuse of children, who are some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
The premier said the task force has already made significant progress, focusing on targeted, short term investigations which stress province-wide collaboration. "It is extremely encouraging to see solid advancements being made by the task force in protecting the families and children of our province and I look forward to seeing further results from their combined efforts,” Dunderdale said.
In their presentation to cabinet, the two police forces outlined progress made in June by their combined police forces in addressing internet child exploitation. The task force was involved in Operation Snapshot II, which was conducted through a partnership between the RNC, the RCMP, the Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and policing agencies from across the Atlantic region. It targeted those involved in child sexual abuse image networks within Atlantic Canada and resulted in the arrest of 22 men on various child pornography charges. Nine of these men were arrested in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“In recent years, improved access to technology has provided criminals with escalating opportunities to organize and network,” said Justice Minister Darin King. “To confront organized networks and target those who exploit children, we must approach policing from a collaborative perspective.”
The province's 2013 budget included an investment of $1 million to establish a new Task Force on Child Exploitation and Drugs. Once fully established, the unit will consist of crime analysts, investigators, computer forensic specialists and other specialized members of both the RNC and the RCMP.
In the meantime, the province says police officers have been working diligently to identify emerging threats and issues that challenge the safety and security of communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.