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A new unit has been created at the West Shore RCMP in order to better investigate cases involving crimes such as sexual assault, child abuse and voyeurism.
The Special Victims Unit (SVU) includes one corporal and two constables that are overseen by the serious crimes staff sergeant.
“We determined there was a need for a specialized unit to handle some of these investigations as they are very complex in nature. Often, sexual offence investigations require a significant amount of time, making it difficult for Frontline officers to investigate while also responding to other calls for service,” said John Ferguson, Staff Sgt. in charge of West Shore RCMP Serious Crimes.
In 2021, West Shore RCMP investigated 106 reports involving sexual offences. Those 106 investigations do not include the number of child pornography related investigations handled by the Serious Crimes Unit.
Last year, the unit investigated a total of 22 child pornography, possession/acquisition and distribution files.
That number jumped to 41 files of this nature as of December 2022 and police expect this number to continue increasing.
“Similar to sexual offence investigations, reports of child pornography are very heavy on police resources with officers having to obtain search warrants, conduct surveillance, as well as engage tech crimes specialists to examine digital data,” said Staff Sgt. John Ferguson.
“In November 2022, an 18-month jail sentence was handed down to a West Shore man who was convicted of being in possession of child pornography. This was a Serious Crimes Unit investigation that took two and a half years to complete. Our officers are dedicated individuals working hard to keep our community safe.”
The RCMP said that the creation of the unit does not change how sexual offences are reported to police. The unit will determine if their expertise is required for a case when reports come into the department.
According to the RCMP, their SVU officers are highly skilled and specifically trained in critical investigative techniques like interviewing children, writing search warrants and monitoring victims who are at risk of being re-victimized.
“SVU investigators routinely connect with other agencies who are also providing support to victims as well as hold training sessions with frontline officers to ensure our investigations are conducted from a trauma-informed perspective,” said the RCMP.