New app aims to help law enforcement crack down on sex trafficki - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New app aims to help law enforcement crack down on sex trafficking

Kathryn Xian (Image: Hawaii News Now) Kathryn Xian (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Image: Hawaii News Now Image: Hawaii News Now
Jesus Nunez (Image: Hawaii News Now) Jesus Nunez (Image: Hawaii News Now)
WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A picture might be worth 1,000 words, but a new app hopes four photos -- stitched together -- can compose a 360-degree view that offers law enforcement important clues to crackdown on sex trafficking.

Sex traffickers often post photos of their victims in hotel rooms for online ads. The TraffickCam App allows travelers to upload photos of their hotel room, which are then entered into a detailed database so investigators can use them to try and figure out where a victim's picture was taken. 

And now the Honolulu Police Department is trying to determine whether it could use the app to track down suspects.

Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, said the app could do a lot of good in Hawaii, where human trafficking is a big business.

"When you talk about trafficking victims that are being held in captivity, whether it be in a hotel or a rental property, sometimes it takes months or even years to find these kids," she said.

It's estimated pimps in the islands rake in hundreds of millions of dollars every year exploiting their victims. Sex trafficking happens at hotels, homes and with street prostitution. In addition, it's estimated the state has 100 brothels.

The app was created by the Exchange Initiative, an organization combats the sexual exploitation of children.  

Although it's been around less than a year, its database has more than 1.5 million photos of hotels rooms around the world.

On the streets of Waikiki the app was well received.

"It's brilliant. Why can't that blow up like Pokemon Go? Our priorities are way off," Jesus Nunez said.

"If we can actually do something about it while I'm enjoying my life, while I'm enjoying my everyday thing. Of course," Maverick Wenrich said.

Still, Xian says stopping human traffickers will take more than an app.

"If law enforcement has the ability to maintain and sort out that database, anything helps. Any little bit of information could safe a life," she said. "However, realistically, we know it takes more than just one app. Traffickers are in tune with the new apps. They know what to do to kind of by pass enforcement."

In fact, Xian says a lot of pimps choose to avoid hotels altogether by using rental properties.

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