TraffickCam App Helps Travelers Fight Human Trafficking

Jul 29, 2016
Daily

Travelers can now fight human trafficking with a new app, TraffickCam. Developed by Exchange Initiative and Washington University, the app allows users to anonymously upload photos of hotel rooms and hotel data to assist investigators in identifying hotels appearing in photos posted by traffickers. In testing, the app is 85 percent accurate in identifying hotels and hotel information uploaded by travelers and matching it with hotels where potential traffickers could operate. The app uses small features such as carpet patterns, room furnishings and window views to make a positive match. “Law enforcement is always looking for new and innovative ways to recover victims, locate suspects and investigate criminal activity. The app created by Exchange Initiative will give law enforcement yet another technological tool to reach that goal in a quicker, more proficient manner when investigating cases involving human trafficking and child exploitation,” said Sergeant Adam Kavanagh, supervisor, St. Louis County Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Task Force. Currently, the TraffickCam database includes 1.5 million photos and more than 145,000 hotels all over the United States. The completely anonymous system retains only GPS locations from submissions received. The app was used by staff of Nix Conference & Meeting Management, the parent company of Exchange Initiative, while in development, but is just recently available to the public. “The first time we were able to help law enforcement identify a hotel where a trafficked child had been photographed, we realized that our travel experience was valuable in the fight against trafficking. Our pivotal moment for developing the app came when we couldn’t identify a motel room. We connected the vice squad with our associates in that city, but it took three days to find the girl. That seemed way too long, given today’s technology,” said Molly Hackett, principal, Exchange Initiative. “Criminals take advantage of technology to advertise and coordinate illegal sex trafficking. We’re using new technologies to fight trafficking, with this app that allows everyone to contribute data and with new image analysis tools to help law enforcement use the images in investigations,” said Dr. Robert Pless, professor of computer science and engineering, Washington University School of Engineering & Applied Science. Newsletter sign-up

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