Phone App could help save trafficking victims

App aims to stop human trafficking

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Nearly 1,100 kids in Ohio are at risk of becoming human trafficking victims every year.  But taking a picture of your hotel room could be another tool to turn those numbers around.

It's a new phone app called TraffickCam.  Any time you travel, you can take pictures of your hotel room and submit them to this database. Then investigators can use those pictures to try to match them to online sex solicitations. Oftentimes traffickers have their victims pose in hotel rooms for ads. 

Sr. Anne Victory heads the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking in Cleveland.  We wanted to know if this could work?  She said it's simply another tool in the tool box to help law enforcement agents make busts and save victims.

"What they look for is recognizing which branded hotels have what kind of furnishings, bed spreads, patterns in carpeting, pictures on walls because hotel chains use similar things," said Sr. Anne.

Cleveland 19 spoke with a senior investigator who deals with these cases.  He said he uses these kind of pictures to catch traffickers and prosecute them. He has not used this particular app because it is fairly new.

A new awareness campaign was just launched in the Cleveland area to educate the public about the problem with human trafficking in our state.  Ohio ranks 5th in the country as far as the number of trafficking cases.  You may notice signs at bus stops, at the airport or on billboards.

Sr. Anne says this is an uncomfortable topic for parents especially, it scares them.  Sr. Anne encourages parents to watch what they're kids are doing on social media, on their phones and on the computer.

"They think they're safe. They'll put anything out there. They just don't realize person on other end may not be their friend at all. It may be a sleazy 60 year old man."

Sr. Anne's advice is to strengthen the family system. She said know what your kids are involved in, know their friends and who they hang out with.

She also described what these traffickers look for, and who is most at risk of becoming a victim.

"They go after vulnerable kids, they really do, lack of self-esteem, maybe family or school issues. They look for these kids and they lure them in," said Sr. Anne.

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