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Saturday, Feb. 24
The Indiana Daily Student

crime & courts

Phone app launched to track sexual predators

A U.S. government law enforcement agency is enlisting the help of iPhone users in tracking down sexual predators.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations launched Operation Predator, which shares with the public photos of and information about fugitives and suspected child predators. The app is available for free download on iTunes or the iPhone app store.

ICE is working on making the app available to other smartphones.

Operation Predator users can navigate through four different sections of the app: Home, Alerts, News and Partners.

The Alerts section features photos and information in hopes people can recognize and help locate fugitives. The News section displays recent news involving sexually abused and exploited children.

ICE Public Affairs Officer Dani Bennett said ICE knows when a crime has been committed because of the visual evidence — photographs or videos — that the fugitives post on the internet. But the suspect is still a Jane or John Doe because they have not been successfully identified from the image.

In order to find the John Doe, ICE makes public appeals to see if anyone can recognize the suspect.

Bennett said the idea of the app was to make the information available to the public directly so people could download it and help.

“The bad guys are using social media to post,” Bennett said. “We, as law enforcement officers, will use the same tools to do good things.”

Tips can be submitted through Operation Predator by phone or online anonymously in the Home section.

In order to choose whose information was to be displayed in the Alerts section, Bennett said they examined all the fugitive cases around the country and worked with agents involved in those cases. Those included were the cases for which agents thought a public appeal would be most helpful.

Mary Armstrong-Smith, community partners director for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said sexual abuse of children is a big problem in Indiana.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana’s vision is to live in a state where children flourish, free from abuse and neglect. As an organization, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana is about stopping child abuse before it has a chance to start, Armstrong-Smith said.

In regards to the new iPhone app, Armstrong-Smith said it could be helpful.
Operation Predator was downloaded 36,000 times in one day.

“This app is the first of its kind that specifically lists people that are wanted in criminal investigations,” Bennett said.

Follow reporter Mary Hauber on Twitter @mary_hauber.

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