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ICE smartphone app allows people to track down child predators

September 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's a new tool to protect kids and track down those who commit crimes against children. It's a first-of-its-kind smartphone application that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched Thursday.

The app is called Operation Predator. It's basically a way for the public to help federal agents solve crimes against children. People can use their smartphone to report suspected child exploitation directly to federal agents.

"It's such a perfect application for this type of thing," said Claude Arnold, ICE special agent in charge. "We use the media to identify and to locate these people, so it's just another form of media."

The app is free, and ICE's web designers say it's fairly easy to use. The first of four screens allows users to submit anonymous tips either online or via a hotline. The next section alerts people to ICE's most wanted list. Right now, the photos of nine men suspected of child pornography crimes are posted, including one of a "John Doe." Agents recently uncovered a video of him sexually abusing a child from a home in Los Angeles.

"And also some pictures from the room where the child pornography was filmed, and so we're hoping with these three images that perhaps someone will recognize him or the room," said Arnold.

In the news section, users can read about ICE's latest arrests and convictions. Lastly, in the resources section, people can link to other websites that are crucial to solving child-exploitation crimes.

Local parents seem to be mixed about whether they would download the app to their phones.

"I guess people who are really into the CSI thing would probably be interested in looking at it, but for the average person, like a mom, I don't know," said Teresa Wilbanks of Long Beach. "I'm more interested in local. Who's near my house? Who's near my kid?"

"All parents are out here for their children to play, but you always have an eye out, so I think what other population could help you more than a parent?" said Michelle Hennings of Long Beach.

ICE receives about 15,000 leads per month on child porn crimes from their tip lines. They're hoping for a big increase now that this app is here.

The Operation Predator app is currently available for Apple devices only. ICE officials say they are already working to expand the app to Android devices.


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