Portage RCMP dismantle pedophile ring thanks to tips from residents – PortageOnline.com

Portage RCMP dismantle pedophile ring thanks to tips from residents – PortageOnline.com

Following the tragic news that three underage teens from Portage la Prairie were lured into sexual exploitation by at least seven adults, the RCMP says a person from Portage came forward with information that put an end to their pursuit.

RCMP media relations officer Tara Seel says people have fortunately recognized the signs and come forward with information.

“This type of situation is not unique to Portage la Prairie. Fortunately, we had investigators in Portage who recognized the signs when they received the information and were able to follow up. We are also very fortunate to have such a dedicated group within our Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit that the Portage Detachment was able to call upon to assist us with this investigation. First and foremost, our concern is always the victim, so it is about getting them to safety and providing them with the support they need.”

She emphasizes that the next priority was to arrest the perpetrators. That’s where the ICE unit shines.

Press conference with Portage Mayor Sharilyn Knox and Councillor Colin DoylePress conference with Portage Mayor Sharilyn Knox and Councillor Colin Doyle

“We have issued several arrest warrants and we have been able to recover devices. So we have seized those devices. We are continuing to forensically examine them to see what we can get out of them. There may well be other charges as a result of this case. I have to say that this was a fairly organized operation in terms of knowing each other. One individual befriended the others and brought them to people’s homes. The way they used Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, it was a fairly organized effort. This is not something that happens by accident. Unfortunately, there is an organization in this and children are being victimized.”

Knowing that this type of thing is going on, with many people hesitant to help and report any suspicious activity, the RCMP needs the community to really partner with them.

“Let us know when something is wrong when something like this happens. It can go on for years and no one has been detected until now. That’s why it’s so important for the community to partner with us. If we hadn’t gotten a tip saying, ‘Hey, there’s this young girl who’s been seen with several older men. This doesn’t seem right,’ we wouldn’t be here today.”

Seel cannot stress enough how important this advice is to dismantling these child exploitation networks.

“I really think the signs to look for include anything that seems out of the ordinary. If something raises your suspicions and doesn’t seem right, there’s no harm in calling and just saying, ‘This is what I saw, this is what I feel.’”

She adds that if any information is revealed, the police will be able to follow up on it.

“I really want to emphasize that this is not a Portage specific case. This particular investigation happened in Portage, but this is happening everywhere. We don’t want Portage to be painted in a particular context because this is not a regional case. Our hearts go out to these victims. They are just girls. They have been horribly exploited and thankfully we have been able to bring charges to this point against the individuals who are exploiting them. But it doesn’t stop for the victims or the survivors. They have to move on and find a solution.”

She emphasizes that everything will be done to help the victims. The RCMP puts them in contact with therapists and organizations related to the needs of these girls.

“If someone has something to report and they don’t feel comfortable going to the police — and we recognize that this happens — you can always call agencies like Klinic Community Health, which are third-party reporting agencies. You can report a sexual assault to Klinic, and they will forward that report to the police while the victim remains anonymous. We do everything we can to find people who are abusing others sexually or otherwise.”