Canadian cops don’t need warrants to DM suspected child lurers — but they still seek more tools

The Supreme Court has ruled police are allowed to communicate online with anyone suspected of child luring - without a warrant. But as Mike Le Couteur reports, police say they still need more powers and resources to keep kids safe on the internet.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Insp. Robert Lajoie as Insp. Robert Lavoie. The story has now been updated.

Canada’s highest court sided with police on Thursday, ruling that cops don’t need warrants when making contact with child luring suspects via email or instant-messaging services.

But law enforcement agencies say they still need more tools to protect kids from child predators.

WATCH: Feb. 18 — Saskatchewan ICE unit stats show 98% conviction rate of child predators

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled in favour of police in a case known as “R. v. Mills.”

The case concerned Sean Patrick Mills, a Newfoundland man who arranged to meet with “Leann,” whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.

Leann, however, was actually a police officer who posed with that name online in an effort to catch child lurers working on the internet.

READ MORE: Montreal police praise teen who helped arrest alleged sexual predator in Lachine

Though a win for police, Staff Sgt. Sharon Hanlon of the Ontario Provincial Police’s (OPP) child pornography and human trafficking unit said more needs to be done.

Virtual private networks (VPNs), for example, should be subject to Canada’s mandatory reporting laws, which compel internet service providers (ISPs) to contact authorities if they are notified about child exploitation material on their servers, she argued.

“Some of these companies (with VPN’s) don’t keep logs, so we would like to see legislation that says if you want to operate here you need to keep minimal logs,” Staff Sgt. Hanlon told Global News.

Those logs would include subscriber information that can help identify the potential offender or victim.

Staffing is also a major issue, Hanlon said.

The RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre received approximately 55,000 online child sex exploitation reports in 2018, a nearly 500 per cent increase from the 9,371 reports in 2013.

WATCH: June 20, 2017 — Common apps being used by child predators and child porn collectors online

The deluge of reports has overwhelmed police departments.

“ Canada has confirmed that this is probably the only crime type that hasn’t slowed down and we’re seeing an increase so we need to know find more resources and keep finding it,” Insp. Robert Lajoie of the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crimes Center said in an interview.

“We are going to miss victims and we’re going to miss suspects, period,” Staff Sgt. Hanlon said, bluntly.

That’s why police all over the world are looking to parents to help monitor where their kids are surfing on the internet, in order to prevent young people from being lured or exploited.

Would-be criminals are lurking on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, creating fake profiles in order to lure children, said internet safety expert Paul Davis.

“They’ll create a profile of an 11-year-old kid who has the same hobbies, the same interests, the same lifestyle, live in apparently the same community,” Davis said.

READ MORE: B.C. couple charged in hog-tie of alleged child predator streamed on Facebook Live

Once the profile is created, the person will try to develop trust with a potential victim and engage on a child’s level even though, in reality, perpetrators are usually much older, he added.

Davis believes that in order to prevent your child from being put in that position, parents should follow specific guidelines, even if other families don’t follow the same practices.

Facebook, for example, requires that users be at least 13 years old in order to create an account. That’s one guideline parents should follow, Davis said.

“If parents educated themselves and waited for the child to be the right age to get on a certain platform before they allow them to get on the platform we can make it a much safer environment,” he said.

Davis suggested three golden rules that parents should consider to keep kids safe online:

  • Parents must educate themselves about internet safety
  • Don’t put your child on a platform before the suggested age
  • Don’t allow your child to be alone with technology (in a bedroom or unsupervised)

“If we combine education, which is getting parents to understand the risks, and removing children from the threat, we can assist the limited capacity the law enforcement have to deal with the bad guys out there,” Davis said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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