HACKENSACK, N.J. — With more than half of all Americans now using smartphones to stay in touch, federal authorities are venturing into new territory in a bid to enlist the public’s help to track down child predators.
A new smartphone application, the first of its kind in federal law enforcement, allows users to receive alerts about wanted predators and to submit tips about their whereabouts.
Developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the software is part of an emerging trend in law enforcement to capitalize on new technologies that engage the public in solving crimes. In New Jersey’s Bergen and Passaic counties, prosecutors on the front lines in the fight against child predators hailed the application as a promising innovation whose time has come.
The Operation Predator app was launched in September by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Directorate, known as HSI. Within 36 hours, a series of tips led to the arrest in Michigan of one of the profiled suspects.
“The app allows everyone in the community — not just law enforcement — to work toward apprehending those who prey on our nation’s most vulnerable, our children,” said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI’s Newark office.
The agency needs the public’s help in locating child predators, and the app goes a long way in getting agents timely information, he said.
The app shows photos and profiles of fugitives and unidentified suspects and allows the user to share that data with friends by email and on social media.
Tips can be anonymously submitted directly by tapping a button on the app or by phone. The app also offers news about arrests and prosecutions of alleged child pornographers and predators as well as additional resources about ICE and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation.