Taking photos of the hotel rooms where you stay during your out of town trips may now save lives.
A smartphone app developed last year called the TraffickCam lets you contribute to the law enforcement database by uploading images of your hotel room, reported Fox2Now. The collected images would then help boost efforts in identifying locations of human-trafficking victims.
“You just enter your hotel room, and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” TraffickCam developer and Washington University researcher Abby Stylianou explained at a Human Trafficking Town Hall at Maritz on Tuesday. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”
TraffickCam was inspired by an incident several years ago when police needed to identify a hotel where children have been trafficked and had sought assistance from Exchange Initiative, a non-profit group formed to stop sex trafficking.
The police showed the group a hotel photo and one of the group’s staff easily identified where it was. Teaming up with Washington University researchers, Exchange Initiative began to make the app.
Sex trafficking victims, aged 14-16, are usually posted online. However, identifying their locations have been a challenge for the authorities.
“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,” Stylianou said.
Once identified, these photographs can be used as evidence and a means to find and prosecute the perpetrators.
Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force deputy commander Sgt. Adam Kavanaugh believes that the app can provide much-needed help in the crackdown against traffickers.
“I think it’s 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,” Kavanaugh said.
TraffickCam, which is available for iPhone, iPad and Android, has so far acquired over 1.5 million photos of hotels around the world.