LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — It’s your chance to play an active role in the fight against sex trafficking. TraffickCam is a simple app, you can download for free for your Apple or Android phone. It’s a twenty-first century attack at an age old industry.
“We see human trafficking every single day in every community. So it’s not just in urban communities. It’s not just in rural communities. It’s in all communities. It’s in people’s neighborhoods,” explained Amy Nace-Degonda, one of three case workers with Catholic Charities who works closely with victims of human trafficking in the city. “People may feel, ‘this is a big issue, you know, so what can I do about it. There’s nothing I can do,” Nace-Degonda said.
But there is something you can do, and it’s as easy as taking photos when you spend the night at a hotel. Once you’ve downloaded the application called TraffickCam, the process is really pretty simple. Just put in the name of your hotel and your room number. Then you can take up to four photos of the room, and hit submit.
When law enforcement finds a photo online of someone being sold for sex, they can then take that photo and drop into the TraffickCam database. The database will go through all the photos taken by you, comparing things like room decorations and layout – then it tells detectives the most likely location that photo was taken.
“Over 400 law enforcement agencies have contacted us asking us for rights to the app, which will be ready for law enforcement in the fall,” explained Kimberly Ritter with the TraffickCam Application. She says the photos you take go to a secure website. No personal information is requested—just photos.
“That’s one immediate thing they can do. ‘I’m in a hotel, I can take some pictures and then I can put those in that database,’ and I think that’s a great thing to do,” Nace-Degonda said. The app is up and running for you, and will soon roll out for law enforcement nationwide. The goal is to help police track down victims, and the pimps responsible for pulling people into trafficking. “This is not something that happens every once in a while. This is something that’s happening every minute of every day,” Ritter said.
You don’t want to think about it, but she says there are pimps, skilled at trolling the internet for victims. It’s an industry and the average age for someone entering it is 12-13. “There’s no geographical boundary. There’s no socioeconomic stereotype. There’s no certain person or people that this happens to. If your child has the computer, this can happen to your child in their room without you knowing about it,” Ritter said. You might think an app like this was dreamed up by some tech genius, but the idea comes from an unlikely group. “Eight years ago, the federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph Catholic Nuns introduced us to the issue so to speak by asking for a hotel that fought sex trafficking,” Ritter said.
A group of sisters in St. Louis working with a meeting planning company, coming up with an idea to change the way investigators can go after online predators. The plan will hopefully lead to arrests, and help pull people out of the dark world of human trafficking. “That’s somebody who is being victimized, that’s being exploited who could get services and be able to get out of that life and then be able to get the services that they need,” Nace-Degonda said. Right now there are more than a million photos stored in the TraffickCam app, many of them were uploaded by people like you. The funding for TraffickCam is provided by the Sisters of St. Joseph and donations. They say they’ve already been contacted by Interpol, and law enforcement in Sweden and Canada asking about using the app, but right now it’s just for the U.S. and they’re still trying to figure out funding moving forward.
For more information about the application, visit http://www.exchangeinitiative.com.
For more information about the Sisters of St. Joseph visit their website at http://www.csjoseph.org.