Of all the criminal offenses that someone could be accused of there are some that result in more serious consequences and stigmas than others. In general, society has a distaste for those who are found guilty of child pornography offences. In addition, convictions on these types of crimes could lead to serious penalties. Besides prison time, for residents of the greater Toronto area it could become necessary to register as a sex offender.
One community in the province of Ontario is piloting a program designed to take a different approach to child pornography offenders. Called Operation Community Intervention for Children’s Safety, the idea behind the initiative is to identify those within the community who are downloading child pornography and provide them with the support necessary to reduce harm and prevent victimization. It also improves public safety.
In addition to internet safety education, victims can also receive counseling under the Community Internet Child Exploitation Project. The Greater Sudbury Police Service is behind both of these projects.
A specialised sexual offender management program was also created. Under this program it is possible for individuals to seek help after downloading child pornography and before committing an offence against a child.
A different element—enforcement—also comes into play. This part of the initiative identifies individuals who are deemed to potentially be a threat to children. As a part of this portion of the program people were arrested, charges were made and referrals to the Sexual Offender Management Program were made.
Whether this program will be beneficial to residents of this community in the long run is not clear. It is also not clear whether other law enforcement agencies in the province of Ontario will develop similar programs. While the program may prevent some individuals from committing crimes it is possible that it could lead to more arrests.