It sends alerts, accepts anonymous tips about fugitives.
Smartphones and Twitter and Facebook recognize no borders or closing times. With that in mind, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a smartphone app on Thursday that they say will allow the public to help find fugitive child pornographers and others who prey on children.
Believed to be the first of its kind in federal law enforcement, it allows tips to be reported anonymously through the app, by phone or online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The technology helps us get our message to the public much quicker and in a medium that so many more people readily identify with,” said Chris Oelkers, a supervisory agent in charge of child exploitation cases in Minnesota for ICE. “Getting that out as soon as possible in as broad a medium as possible certainly helps us find these predators.”
The Operation Predator app allows those who download it to receive alerts about wanted predators, to share the information with friends through e-mail and social media tools, and to provide information to ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations by calling or submitting an online tip. The app enables users to see news about arrests and prosecutions of child predators and additional resources about ICE and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation, the department said Thursday.
The app currently can be downloaded from Apple’s app store or iTunes (http://bit.ly/1eixbIM). ICE is planning to expand compatibility to other smartphones soon.
The initiative is part of a federal focus on child pornography and offenders who victimize children. Another effort, Operation iGuardian, which ran from May 28 to June 30, was conducted as part of the same operation to identify and rescue victims of online sexual exploitation and to arrest their abusers. It also targeted others who might own, trade or produce images of child pornography. In that program, 255 child predators were arrested and 61 victims were identified.
One of the fugitives featured in the new app is a man wanted for producing child pornography involving the sexual abuse of a 10- to 12-year-old girl. This “John Doe” is an unknown suspect and is believed to be somewhere in the United States or Canada, but he could be anywhere in the world.
Another featured on the new app was last seen in Minneapolis and Fargo, N.D.
Charles Adney Allen, formerly of Fargo, was last known to be in Fargo and Minneapolis in late 2009. He faces a federal indictment in North Dakota on allegations of trading in more than 1,800 images of child exploitation. The new app shows basic information about Allen, including his picture, as well as how to contact authorities if he is encountered.
These investigations are part of Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and sex traffickers. Federal authorities encourage the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hot line at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434