This Simple App Can Help End Human Trafficking

by Jerriann Sullivan
Originally Published: 

Help end human trafficking by uploading photos of your hotel room to a new app

There’s now a super simple way you can help end human trafficking. When you’re traveling and check into your hotel room, snap a few photos of it and upload them to a new app that investigators use to track down traffickers.

Human traffickers advertise children and (mostly) women for sex online by posting pictures of the victims that are usually taken from inside a hotel room. Law enforcement officials across the country have created a national database, but identifying the hotels and motels can be hard.

This is where the The TraffickCam app can help. Users submit photos of a hotel room and the app compares it to the national database. “Those (photos) become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked,” Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou told Fox 2 Now.

While it might seem like a problem that doesn’t happen here in America, human trafficking is actually a big deal in the states. Between January and March of this year, 1,654 new human trafficking cases were reported, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Of those cases 1,378 were female and 546 were minors. In 2015, the organization identified 3,780 female victims of sex trafficking in the U.S.

“The takeaway is that it’s a phenomenon in the United States, and most people don’t think that’s true. They think it’s happening somewhere else,” Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA, a non-profit focused on ending the sexual exploitation of children, told the Chicago Tribune. “The whole industry is off the streets, so those transactions have to happen someplace. Very frequently it’s in a hotel room.”

Support for the app from the public has been huge since it launched on June 20. TraffickCam has been downloaded more than 56,000 times and has more than 1.5 million images of hotels from across the globe. It’s free and available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Users can take up to four pictures of their room from different angles. The app matches your phone’s location with the hotel’s address to ensure accuracy so it’s best to use TraffickCam when you first check into your room.

Researchers at Washington University and the Exchange Initiative, a non-profit working to end human trafficking, came together to create the app. “For the first time anyone can help make a difference,” Exchange Initiative Principal Molly Hackett told the Tribune. “I’m not sure if there’s anything else out there that anyone can do to help.”

Download the TraffickCam app here. To report a case of human trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. Calls and texts are answered 24 hours a day in more than 200 languages.

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