Michael John Branton
by Victoria Rose, Our Windsor • Friday, March 25th, 2011
At a press conference held on March 24, representatives from several law enforcement attachments gathered to announce the success of a recent partnership that have brought child pornography charges against 7 men from Windsor & Essex County.
The two-month Joint Forces Operation involved the Windsor Police Service, several attachements from the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Chatham Kent Regional Police Service.
Items seized from the execution of the warrant included 20 computers, 500 DVDs, various external hard drives and flash drives. On one hard drive alone, 500,000 images were found and investigators believe that up to 200,000 of those images will be considered child exploitation. The maximum penalty for possessing child pornography is 5 years and 5 to 10 years for luring a child.
The men charged in these separate/unrelated cases are:
Investigators report that the victims in child sexual exploitation cases are getting younger and younger and the images found on the seized equipment are expected to show youth from newborn to 18 years of age. Despite the charges being named as child pornography, officers have started to use the term “child sexual exploitation” as pornography is often associated with having entertainment value.
“This is the exploitation of the most vulnerable victims we have in our society and it’s our duty to try and protect them to the best of our ability,” said Inspector Randy Gould of the Windsor Police Services. He said that this is a widespread problem with images being traded across the globe.
Staff Sergeant Frank Goldschmidt calls it “pervasive”. As the Provincial Coordinator for the Child Exploitation Section of the O.P.P., Goldschmidt he has seen an increase in the investigations completed and the number of people charged since the inception of the provincial strategy in August 2006. Of 11,919 investigations completed, 4,016 charges have been laid against 1,352 people; those totals do not include these recent charges. “Our objective is to keep predators out of our real and virtual communities,” he says.
Identifying and rescuing children from these crimes is a challenging task. Investigators must learn about the latest software, hardware, and storage technology to keep up with predators. Once the predators have been identified and their computer equipment has been seized, there is a long and arduous process to try to identify minors within the materials to see if any of them live within our area. It will take months to go through the recent seizures.
Inspector Scott Naylor, the Manager of the O.P.P.’s Child Exploitation Section congratulated everyone for their dedication and hard work on the investigations. He says that police are making progress in combating internet child luring, sexual exploitation and abuse and hopes that arrests like these will deter some would-be predators. But Naylor knows that there is still a great deal of work ahead including the need for more education and awareness for parents and caregivers to be aware of things to watch for and instruct their children on how to access the internet in a safe way.
Naylor echoed the goal of all of the police services involved, “Our most fundamental responsibility as a society is to protect our children from those who would do them harm.”