ICE launches “Operation Predator,” smartphone app for locating and guarding against sexual predators

courtesy of Apple

iPhone screenshots for Operation Predator, courtesy of Apple

By: Sadaaf Mamoon

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) department launched an application this September called “Operation Predator.” The app is geared towards public interaction and cooperation in identifying and locating sexual predators.

This is the first app of its kind that’s being actively used by U.S. federal law enforcement in a serious capacity. By promoting connectivity between users, the app creates a national community united in the lookout for dangerous people.

“Operation Predator” has a number of functions, one of which is online tip collecting and consolidating. Tips can be reported by anyone, 24 hours a day and anonymously, directly though the app.

The app also presents individual, detailed cases that showcase known fugitives involved in sexually abusing children. The hope is that with this greater exposure, HSI special agents will be quicker to identify, find and arrest these predators.

Marc Klaas, creator and president of the Klaas Kids Foundation, a non-profit focused on raising awareness for and preventing crimes against children, has an interesting opinion on this kind of notification system. He criticized California’s first usage of the state’s cellphone network to issue an Amber Alert this past August.

“It’s an incredibly harsh sound,” he said to the Los Angeles Times. “And it provides you with almost no information.”

Klaas established his Foundation in 1994 to give meaning to the death of his twelve-year-old daughter Polly Klaas. Polly was kidnapped from her home in Petaluna, California in October 1993 and strangled to death. Her plight sparked the most expansive manhunt in American history. In the years since, Klaas has developed a legacy for his daughter, playing the role of advocate for kidnapped and at-risk children and their families. Polly’s murderer was convicted and sentenced to death in 1996.

Klaas might find the ICE app more favorable because of its more thorough and engaging approach to distributing important information.

“When children are being sexually abused and exploited, it’s a race against the clock to rescue the child and bring the predator to justice,” said ICE Acting Director John Sandweg, in the ICE’s press release in September. “These investigations are one of our highest priorities, and in today’s world, we need to be technologically savvy and innovative in our approach.”

The app is a functional one, allowing users to receive notifications describing new wanted predators. Information in the app is easily shared to a number of social networking platforms.

“Does what it said it would. Good work ICE. Get the creeps off the streets,” wrote user Jeff1234321 in the app’s iTunes app store reviews. He gives the app five stars.

The launch of the app falls under a greater, eponymously named initiative to protect children from sexual predators.

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