Too many times, tips to Homeland Security Investigations become stale before they ever reach agents who can investigate them.
People may not know who exactly to call if they see acts of child exploitation, said Utah HSI Special Agent Tim Ballard.
Should they contact their local police? The FBI?
Because of this uncertainty, people either don’t call in tips or the tips become stale before the reach the proper agents who could investigate them, according to Ballard.
Ballard hopes that a new iPhone app can change that.
Released Thursday, the Operation Predator app — available for freeat Apple’s App Store — allows users to send tips regarding child exploitation to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, which allows the public to have direct contact with agents who can respond more quickly to tips regarding child trafficking or exploitation.
“It cuts out that lapse in communication,” Ballard said. “... It shortens that response time. It can be almost a real-time response.”
Ballard said the app allows users to submit a tip either by message or phone call. It also has a section where users can view mugshots and other information about alleged child predators sought by ICE.
The app functions as a way to connect with ICE, but Ballard emphasized that it does not allow ICE to see anything on the user’s phone and the tips can remain anonymous.
“We want to be very clear, the app does not take any information off phones,” he said. “It does not have that ability.”
The Operation Predator app is geared to accept tips about child exploitation and human trafficking, but is not intended to field tips related to illegal immigration, drug trafficking or similar complaints, according to Ballard.
The app can be used nationwide to send tips. Ballard said Utah is not exempt for child predator crimes, and Utahns could definitely utilize the program.
“People would be shocked if they knew how much child porn is traded [in Utah],” he said. “People would be shocked if they knew how much this exists.”