Sextortion on the rise in Wellington County, say OPP

By Jesse Gault, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WELLINGTON COUNTY — The relatively new crime of online sextortion has seen an increase in rural Wellington County, say Wellington County OPP.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in the reported number of sextortion cases. In recent months there’s been a number reported,” said Joshua Cunningham, media relations and communications officer for Wellington O.P.P.

Sextortion involves an individual sharing nude images through social media only to then see another individual threaten to share the images with that person's social media contacts unless money is paid or more images are shared.

It's a crime that has seen an increase around the world.

“The uptick observed in Wellington County is consistent with national and international trends seen in recent months,” stated the OPP's annual report to the County of Wellington Police Services Board this week.

The crime devastates victims both through taking their money and in the emotional trauma of their intimate photos potentially being shared.

“Well, there’s two big parts where victims are felt, one is in the wallet. It’s a cash grab threat. Threatened to extort intimate images by demanding either money or more photos or intimate images,” Cunningham said. “As well it victimizes people in the stress or harassment or fear of family or loved ones being aware of this intimate image sharing.”

The victims of sextortion are typically underage.

The O.P.P., through Wellington County and the general headquarters in Orillia, are responding to this criminal activity through investigation, educating the public and supporting victims.

“The Wellington MCU is addressing the issue through investigation, with the assistance of the OPP’s Child Sexual Exploitation Unit (CSEU), as well as through public education in the form of media releases and social media messaging,” stated the report.

MCU is major crime unit.

“Several resources have also been supplied by the Wellington County Youth Resiliency Officer to assist frontline members in providing education and support to the victims and family members affected by these incidents,” stated the report.

“I don’t know when the categorization came out but extortion, sextortion as the way we see it, is fairly new. It’s a technology based, or primarily technology based crime,” Cunningham said.

Jesse Gault is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

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