By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
A man arrested earlier this month for luring a child over social media had been working in several Oshawa arenas and may have learned the name of the child he contacted there, police have revealed.
An investigation by York police’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit began in November, when a York Region woman came forward to investigators with information that her son was having inappropriate chats with an individual over Facebook.
The profile appeared to be that of a 25-year-old woman named Jennifer Jackson. The woman had contacted the 12-year-old to compliment him on his appearance and asked for photos. The chats eventually evolved into a sexual nature.
ICE investigators determined that the profile was a fake, and on Feb. 11 executed a search warrant on the home of a 40-year-old Bowmanville man. He was arrested without incident and several electronic devices were seized.
“It is believed the child’s name was obtained by the accused through his part-time employment at snack shops in various hockey arenas in the Oshawa area,” states a press release from York police.
The information prompted the City of Oshawa to release a statement that the accused was never an employee of the city, but worked in the snack shops at Children’s Arena, Donevan Recreation Complex, Harman Park Arena, Civic Recreation Complex and Lakefront West. The man worked part-time for FST Vending Services, a company on contract with the city.
The unsettling knowledge has city staff set to review policies to improve safety of users and staff, says Jag Sharma, Oshawa’s city manager.
“It just gives us cause to reflect, is there anything that we can consider from an internal perspective, and that’s where we’ll do any type of reviews,” Sharma says.
Before that happens, Sharma says supporting the York police investigation is top priority.
“That’s first and foremost,” he says. “Safety is incredibly paramount from the city’s perspective, for our users and our staff.”
Sharma was unable to provide further details on any processes or policies that may be changed at the city as the investigation is still in the early stages, he says.
“Given, I guess, how recent this has come up, we don’t have much knowledge at all given the state that (York police) are in with their investigation as to what’s happened,” he says. “Once we understand better the investigation and the results of it, then certainly it will give us the ability to see if we can we do something different.”
When contacted by The Oshawa Express, Jeff Champagne, the president of FST, says background checks are done on all employees.
“All FST employees have clean records as a condition of employment,” he said in an emailed statement.
He was also unaware of any additional locations the accused may have worked at in Durham Region.
Due to the nature of his employment, York police are concerned there may be more victims, and are asking anyone with information to contact the ICE unit at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7078.