Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Haiti Orphans Prey For Sex Offenders

RCMP hope to stop sex predators drawn to disaster-ridden country

Three members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will head to Haiti on April 8 to help Haiti in preventing child exploitation.

NEPEAN-CARLETON - Natural disasters draw emergency and aid workers, but they also attract sex offenders.

According to the RCMP, the 2004 Pacific tsunami made orphaned children easy prey for sex offenders.

“They’re what we call travelling sex offenders,” said RCMP Sgt. Lana Prosper.

The federal government announced on April 7 that three members of the Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (CPCMEC) will travel to Haiti in an effort to prevent sexual predators from turning children in that country into victims.

Prosper said some predators will offer to enter a country faced with a disaster to help with the recovery.

“But really what they want is access to the children,” she said.

CPCMEC’s victim identification unit comprises four members, and three of them will be in Haiti for about a month. Prosper said it’s the first such international mission that the RCMP is aware of.

Prosper and two civilian members of the victim identification unit – specialist Gilbert Labelle and CPCMEC operations manager Luc Vidal – expect to fly to Haiti on April 8. In the short term the three Canadians will assist Haitian police with identification of children who are at risk of exploitation. Over the long term, the side-by-side work is expected to improve the Haitian police force’s own ability to prevent sex crimes.

“The Haitian National Police are stretched to their limits,” said RCMP Supt. John Bilinski during an April 7 press conference at the RCMP hangar near the Ottawa airport. “They are focused on providing the basic needs for the Haitian people.”

Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre announced the deployment of the team at the press conference on behalf of Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews.

Poilievre called child exploitation “a borderless crime,” that requires co-ordination between many police forces.

Prosper said Haiti’s recovery from a Jan. 12 earthquake is a critical time to help prevent sex crimes.

The three Canadians in Haiti will start their work at orphanages because they hold the most vulnerable children. She said the team will take cameras to catalogue children so they can identify them if they show up in child pornography at a later date.

Prosper said she travelled to Haiti a few weeks ago to meet some of the police officers the victim identification unit will work alongside.

“The intent is to bring them up to the level of the international community,” she said.

The Canadian unit has had many successes, identifying more than 100 children in Canada who have since been rescued from exploitation. The unit has also helped identify more than 2,000 children in other countries who may have appeared in child pornography.

Prosper said the unit has in the past handled cases that originated in Haiti, involving children from that country.

The victim identification unit will travel to Haiti with computers, cameras and other gear. The team will take extra provisions with them due to the lack of supplies on the ground since the January earthquake.

Prosper hopes the publicity surrounding the trip will help prevent potential child sexual abuse.

“Maybe when (predators) hear about this they will be less likely to travel to those places,” she said.

Source: YourOttawaRegion

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