U.S. Homeland Security investigators are hoping new app will lead to arrests of suspected child predators. Marianne Favro reports.
U.S. Immigration and Customs officials have announced a new smartphone app that will ask for the public's help in finding suspected child predators and fugitives.
A fugitive indicted by a Bay Area federal grand jury on child pornography charges is among the first cases featured on a new app.
People who download it Thursday will see photographs and information about Kevin Thomas Trask. Trask is a 37-year-old paramedic, who formerly lived in the Bay Area. He was last seen in December 2012, and left shortly after being indicted in November 2012 for distribution and possession of child pornography, according to ICE.
The indictment alleges Trask was involved in sharing more than 700 images and 10 videos featuring the sexual exploitation of children, including some which involved sadomasochism and sex acts with toddlers.
The app allows users to anonymously report tips 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It contains photos and information about known fugitives in Homeland Security Investigations criminal cases involving sexually abused and exploited children.
"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," ICE Acting Director John Sandweg said. "These investigations are one of our highest priorities, and in today's world, we need to be technologically savvy and innovative in our approach."
So far, there are about 10 sex predators ICE is trying to locate who have been reported through the app. The predator at the top of the list has been seen in videos sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl, according to ICE agents.
ICE's Office of Public Affairs developed the app with special agents from Homeland Security Investigations Cyber Crimes Center and field offices across the country.
"The creation and launch of this application provides ICE another useful tool to reach the public," said ICE Director of Public Affairs Brian Hale. "We recognize that people receive a great deal of information on their mobile devices and we are hopeful that this app will encourage them to submit tips about suspects and to learn more about our work investigating child exploitation crimes."
The Operation Predator App allows users to receive alerts about wanted predators, to share the information with friends through email and social media, and to provide information to Homeland Security Investigations by calling or submitting an online tip.
It also allows users to view news about arrests and prosecutions of child predators and additional resources about ICE and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation.
"It's basically going to be a new tool to help us put bad guys behind bars," ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias said.
Some parents are glad to have the added protection.
"My daughter is young and, you know, there's a lot of things happening to a lot of kids out here," mother Tashia Anosike said.
Father Ricky Fernandez agreed.
"Anything to protect our children is worth it," he said.
Currently, the free app can be downloaded from Apple's App Store or iTunes, but ICE is also planning to expand compatibility to other smartphones in the near future.