KARE-TV Minneapolis: New phone app aims to help sex trafficking victims

MINNEAPOLIS – For years now, KARE 11 has been documenting the issue of sex trafficking.

It’s usually the officers and the advocates who are working to rescue victims. But thanks to technology, the general public can help now too.

“Citizens across the U.S. can take action by simply taking photos of their hotel rooms,” said Kimberly Ritter.

She works for the company that developed the latest app called TraffickCam.

It allows people to take pictures of a hotel room and then upload it to a massive database.  Investigators can then compare those pictures to online ads of victims posing in hotel rooms in hopes of finding them, she said.

“Through something similar to digital recognition the hotel will be able to recognize data points and pull the most probable hotel room that victim is in,” she said.

She said so far people have posted thousands of pictures to the app. The law enforcement application is still in the testing phase, but it should be fully operational over the next several months.

“It sounds like something that could be effective,” said Alex Khu, special agent in charge with Homeland Security Investigations.

When KARE 11 spoke to him in several weeks ago, he had not tested the app himself, but he is hopeful.

“It’s a fantastic idea,” he said.

Some advocates in the Twin Cities told KARE 11 they are skeptical the app could work, but Anastasia Kramlinger at YouthLink believes it is a good step.

“The fact that the community as a whole is acknowledging trafficking in our community is problem in our state and in our communities is helpful,” she said.

© 2017 KARE-TV