ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation unit has arrested two men from Grande Prairie for offences related to online child sexual exploitation as part of the arrest of 18 people across Alberta. 24-year-old Anas Khatib and 20-year-old Jesse Young have both been charged with at least one child pornography offence.

Between May 20 and June 23, 2020, the 18 suspects identified by ICE were charged with 65 offences. Most of the arrests came as a result of investigative referrals from the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.

“Online child exploitation victimizes our most vulnerable and is a crime against an entire society that’s built around nurturing our children and keeping them safe,” says Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer. “Identifying and arresting the perpetrators who prey on children is complex and challenging work, and I commend the investigators of ALERT’s ICE unity for their tireless dedication to this grim, but absolutely necessary duty.”

ICE previously reported a record 243 reported instances of child exploitation in throughout Alberta in March 2020. That far exceeds that unit’s two-year average of roughly 110.

“This is a level of activity that has been unparalleled in the existence of the ICE unit,” says ALERT CEO Superintendent Dwayne Lakusta. “ICE is working incredibly hard to put predators behind bars, but we need parents to do their part and be vigilant of their kids’ online activities.”

Authorities report there is no definitive link between the suspects other than the nature of offences allegedly committed. ICE speculates the rise in the number of investigative referrals is likely in part related to digital dependency during COVID-19 isolation measures.