A total of 26 Albertans, including two local men, are facing charges in connection to an alleged online child sexual exploitation investigation.

The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team’s Internet Child Exploitation unit (ALERT ICE unit) identified numerous suspects between June and mid-September of this year.

Most of the arrests came as the result of investigative referrals from the RCMP.

ALERT Chief Executive Officer, Superintendent Dwayne Lakusta says these arrests demonstrate the willingness of police to travel across the province to put predators behind bars.

Police say 41 year old Sean Giles of Lethbridge and 28 year old Stephen Miehe of Cardston, are two of several people facing charges related to child pornography.

ALERT says there is no definitive link between any of the more than two dozen suspects.

Investigators speculate the rise in the number of investigative referrals is likely in part related to digital dependency during COVID-19 isolation measures.