An app developed, in part, at Washington University, will allow users to help fight human trafficking.
Users of the TraffickCam take photos of hotel rooms they stay in, and those photos go into a database that law enforcement can compare to photos taken to advertise sex with trafficking victims, which are often taken in hotel rooms.
Washington University researcher Abby Stylianou said her lab helped develop software that will automate the comparisons between victim photos and the database.
“[Law enforcement can] upload the [victims’] photos to a secure back end of our website and they scrub out any sensitive parts of the image, and then we run an algorithm that matches that photo against our database and returns the results to them quickly,” said Stylianou.
Stylianou said even weeks or months after the victim has been moved, determining what hotels they’ve been in can help in prosecuting traffickers.
“If a trafficker moves a victim across state lines the force of law that can be used against them is actually more severe,” said Stylianou.
Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter is a member of the state legislature’s human trafficking task force. His department has been using a similar idea locally: it’s taken its own photos of area hotel rooms to compare to trafficking victim photos. He says the app is a great idea.
“To be able to go to maybe a database – that’s what this will come to – it will be very helpful for law enforcement all over to help identify the locations of the rooms where stuff may be going on,” said Walter.