Five Calgarians, including a former Alberta Party candidate, an air force pilot, and an accounts manager, have been swept up in a child exploitation investigation. In total, 10 men from southern Alberta were arrested and charged in Operation Ice Storm 3, an eight-month investigation by ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation or ICE team, which is made up of officers from Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and the RCMP.

ICE investigates offences involving child pornography, computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the Internet, voyeurism involving underage victims, and child sex trade/tourism.

The last investigation focused on child sexual abuse images and videos being traded on peer-to-peer file sharing networks and targeted high-volume traders, said Det. Justin Brookes, one of the primary investigators.

And the 10 arrested represent only “a fraction” of the offenders operating in this province.

“Every day, thousands of child sexual abuse images and videos are being traded, viewed, downloaded all across the province,” he said.

“Simply put, we cannot arrest everyone at once. Instead, Ice Storm 3 targeted the suspects with the largest collections and some of the most graphic content.”

Over the last eight months, investigators executed 30 search warrants across southern Alberta and seized 285 computers, mobile devices and storage drives.

So far, only about half of the devices have undergone forensic analysis, but investigators have already discovered more than 40 terabytes of data containing more than 50,000 individual videos and images depicting child pornography and child sexual exploitation.

“Some of the victims in the images and the videos are estimated to be as young as six months and depict extreme sexual violence,” Brookes said.

In the first Operation Ice Storm launched April 2014, 10 people were arrested. The second operation last year, netted eight arrests.

Brookes stressed the importance of protecting children and to let kids know it’s OK to talk about abuse and speak up. He also urged anyone with information on child online sexual exploitation to report it.