ST. LOUIS, MO – The social action organization Exchange Initiative is encouraging travelers to help fight sex trafficking during January, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, by uploading hotel room photos to the free TraffickCam mobile app. Today, January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Photos uploaded with the TraffickCam app are anonymously added to a national database used by law enforcement and investigators to locate victims and their pimps.
“Everyone who travels on vacation or business can make a real difference in the fight sex trafficking by using TraffickCam to upload photos of their hotel and motel rooms,” said Molly Hackett, principal of Exchange Initiative.
TraffickCam was developed by Exchange Initiative and researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. The free app is available for iPhone and iPad at the App Store (bit.ly/TraffickCamApp) and for Android devices at Google Play (bit.ly/TraffickCamAndroid).
More than 102,000 apps have been downloaded since TraffickCam was launched in the summer of 2016. Stories and posts about the app have generated more than 35 million Twitter impressions and have been shared countless times on Facebook. The public has uploaded nearly 100,000 photos to a database of 1.5 million publicly available hotel room photos preloaded by the developers. More than 150,000 hotels are now represented in the database.
TraffickCam captures room features such as carpeting patterns, furniture, accessories and views outside the windows, which can be matched by law enforcement against photos advertising sex trafficking victims posed in hotel rooms. TraffickCam does not store any personally identifying information other than the phone’s GPS location, and any images including people are rejected.
The public can learn additional ways to take action and support further development of the TraffickCam database at www.exchangeinitiative.com. Donations will be doubled through a $100,000 matching gift from the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that forces children and adults to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Young victims are coerced into the sex trade through fraud, drugs, force, debt bondage and intimidation at an average age of 12 to 14. According to UNICEF*, 5.5 million children worldwide are trafficked each year.
“Criminals take advantage of technology to advertise and coordinate illegal sex trafficking,” said Dr. Richard Pless, TraffickCam developer and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Washington University School of Engineering & Applied Science. “We’re using new technologies to fight sex trafficking, with this app that allows everyone to contribute data and with new image analysis tools to help law enforcement use the images in investigations.”
ABOUT EXCHANGE INITIATIVE
Exchange Initiative provides resources, information and networking solutions to combat sex trafficking in the U.S. Exchange Initiative developed the TraffickCam app. TraffickCam allows any traveler with a smartphone to help fight sex trafficking by uploading photos of their hotel room to an enormous, constantly updated database of hotel room images. Federal, state and local law enforcement securely submit photos of trafficking victims posed in hotel rooms to TraffickCam to locate victims.
Download the TraffickCam app on the App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android) or use the desktop app at www.TraffickCam.com. For more information, visit exchangeinitiative.com,Facebook.com/TraffickCam,twitter.com/TraffickCam, facebook.com/exchangeinitiative and twitter.com/TheEXInitiative or call Molly Hackett at (314) 645-1455.
* UNICEF reference: https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/infographic-global-human-trafficking-statistics