A new app called TraffickCam will help authorities stop human trafficking. The app allows travelers to submit pictures of their hotel rooms around the world. The images are then matched with a national database.
“You just enter your hotel room, and your room number,” says Abby Stylianou, a Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer. “You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website. And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”
Stylianou went on to explain how the images help police find traffickers.
“Right now there are pictures posted every day. Hundreds of pictures, in every city around the United States, posted online, that show victims of trafficking, in hotel rooms posed on beds,” she said.
The hotel room photos allow police to search the database and determine where traffickers took the pictures.
The idea for the app is the result of a collaboration between Washington University researchers and the non-profit Exchange Initiative, after police sought the help their to identify a specific hotel where a sex trafficker took their victim.
“It was a photo that they had from the internet,” says Molly Hackett, who works for the company that founded the Exchange Initiative. “One of the girls in our office knew exactly what it was.”
Sgt. Adam Kavanaugh with St. Louis County Police provides some insight on the shadowy world of human trafficking.
“The average age, when we talk to our girls that we deal with, most of them have started at 13, 14 years old,” he says. “And most of them have been sexually abused as children,” he said.
Kavanaugh is the deputy commander of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
“I think [this app] is going to be crucial to help us identify not only where they’re at now, but where they’ve been at. Which is something we need – that’s helps with prosecution.”
At press time, TraffickCam has over 1.5 million images of hotel rooms across the world. TraffickCam is free and available for iOS and Android devices.
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