The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 31, 2013

Prosecutors welcome app to track down child predators


The app can be downloaded for free from Apple’s App Store or iTunes. ICE plans to expand its compatibility to other smartphones, but officials could not say when that would happen.

More than 82,000 people downloaded the app in the month after its Sept. 12 debut, said Khaalid Walls, an ICE spokesman in Detroit.

“Obviously, people are really excited about the app,” Walls said. “And the fact that we had the Michigan arrest the first day and a half after its release shows it’s an important law enforcement tool.”

Brian Sinclair, who investigates online predators as head of the computer crimes unit in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, said the Operation Predator app is “a wonderful idea.”

The app is a logical outgrowth of the kind of “crowd-sourcing” and multileveled outreach by law enforcement that followed the Boston Marathon bombings in April, said Sinclair, whose undercover unit has snared predators who traveled from as far away as Washington state and Florida to have sex with children.

“With cameras everywhere and people with smartphones everywhere, and the ability of the government to push this information and say to the public, ‘Please help us locate this particular individual’ … I simply don’t see the negative to that,” he said.

“They knew that people could help law enforcement more than law enforcement just helping themselves,” Sinclair said of the Boston investigators. “And I think this (app) is really just an extension of that.”

Joseph Del Russo, chief assistant prosecutor in charge of the Special Victims and Megan’s Law units in the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, sees the app as a new-fangled “way of turbo-charging our traditional tip lines.”

“You need to go where the people are, and the people are in large part these days communicating and paying attention to social media, and to websites and the Internet,” Del Russo said.

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