Wireless App Created for Citizens to Help Stop Human Trafficking
Crime Stoppers Global Solutions and SafeGuard Systems, Inc. are relying on global citizenship for the support needed to help give a voice to child trafficking victims who don’t have one.
In February 2021, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that the share of children among trafficking victims had tripled internationally and that COVID-19 was largely to blame. According to their report, traffickers have “integrated technology into their modus operandi at every stage of the process: from recruiting to exploiting victims.” UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly stated that “millions of women, children and men worldwide are out of work, out of school and without social support in the continuing COVID-19 crisis, leaving them at greater risk of human trafficking.” According to the UN, the share of children detected has increased from 10 per cent to over 30 per cent. And according to recent data collected by the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce Program (ICAC), the share of child victims has increased by over 40 per cent since the pandemic began.
UNODC Director Waly said, “we need targeted action to stop criminal traffickers from taking advantage of the pandemic to exploit the vulnerable.”
There are people and organizations doing just that. Sgt. Jim Fuda (King County Sheriff’s Office, retired) is a co-founder of Crime Stoppers Global Solutions (CSGS), a 501c3 organization based in Washington D.C. The organization is focused on applying wireless technology on a global basis to combat transnational crimes and especially human trafficking. The premise is simple: provide the public with a safe, anonymous, and simple App for wireless devices that can be used in any language to provide trusted local law enforcement partners with secure and anonymous tips that will lead to the apprehension of human trafficking kingpins and other transnational criminals. Phone and internet-based tip lines have existed globally for some time. However, they simply do not provide the psychological and practical anonymity safety net to overcome the public’s fear of reprisal. This is especially true in countries and regions where reprisal can even mean death as a means for criminals and corrupt officials to protect their criminal enterprise.
To develop a safe and secure technology that can be adapted to any language and culture, CSGS is partnered with SafeGuard Systems, Inc., a technology development company based in Menlo Park, CA. The primary focus of SafeGuard Systems is on accelerating data for emergency response. Among other achievements, the company has demonstrated their unique skill set in enhancing school safety in particular.
Safeguard Systems stepped up to partner with CSGS and has developed a first of its kind end-to-end encrypted Transnational Crime App (TCI). With this super-secure App, citizens can report crimes anonymously without the fear of retribution. The App can be adapted to any language, cultural nuance, privacy, and local public safety requirements. Their anonymous tips go directly to trusted law enforcement in real-time through the App.
“We were honoured to be able to step up and volunteer our resources to develop this App for Crime Stoppers Global Solutions,” said Mike Jacobs, Founder and CEO of SafeGuard Systems, Inc. “As someone who has been involved with school safety and protecting children for decades, it was a simple decision for us because we know the technology will work and that we may be able to help save lives,” he continued. “If traffickers are using tech platforms to recruit and exploit children, then we will help develop platforms to save them,” said Jacobs.
CSGS has been working in Serbia and across the region known as the “Balkan Route” for its initial international launch of the TCI App.
BACKGROUND: ROLLING TCI OUT IN THE BALKAN REGION
CSGS is currently working on a Transnational Initiative with the TCI App focused on the “Balkan Route.” This involves a four-country cooperative alliance to combat human trafficking and other major crimes that help fund international terrorism. The project includes trusted police partners from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, the media in the region, and local non-profits and other community partners involved in anti-trafficking services.
The “Balkan Route” is considered the most notorious transnational crime highway in the world. The program will offer up to a $1000-dollar (US) reward if a tip leads to an arrest and charge, which is a yearly wage for many in the region. “Societies and cultures everywhere need to believe in the human spirit, that it must shine even in the darkest places, and that we all can contribute to our own safety and security as well as our neighbours, sisters and brothers,” offered Sgt Fuda. “These crimes are happening next door or around the corner and in the darkest shadows of this world. Rescue and prevention matter, not just for the millions, but for the one who we all must commit to protecting,” he concluded.
As part of a meticulous building process, CSGS began a test launch of its anonymous tip application along the “Balkan Route” in late 2018. The most important components were developing trust and partnership with the media, local NGOs and the government, and establishing a relationship with trusted law enforcement investigators and leaders. This education is the face of the initiative and the critical link to introducing the TCI App to the public. With a strong media and government support focus, the Balkan pilot project demonstrated that the program can be effective in gaining media, law enforcement, and citizen support and involvement in high-risk regions.
WHY IT WORKS:
- Historically, as crimes are solved, the public becomes increasingly engaged in reporting crime tips. Financial reward is a positive reinforcement that becomes grass roots and now a viral phenomenon because of the use of wireless communications and social media.
- With the introduction of a mobile app, crime tips have tripled in the US where it has been introduced– and arrests have also increased significantly.
- Even the poorest countries have wireless communications and cell phones—it is the primary global connector.
- The human appeal and motivation to participate is anchored in the key promise: anonymity. It has been proven effective for over 40 years.
The Balkan project and other development were interrupted in 2020 by COVID-19. To reignite the project, Crime Stoppers Global Solutions and SafeGuard Systems recently started a StartSomeGood crowdfunding campaign together in order to support the work in the Balkan Region.
Together they have already met over $2,000-dollars of their $5,000-dollar initial goal, but are hoping to reach their $20,000-dollar stretch goal before the end of their campaign. The organizations are relying on global citizenship for the support they need to help give a voice to child trafficking victims who don’t have one.
“For over 40 years, we have proven in the United States that the citizens are willing to help bring the worst criminals to justice by providing anonymous tips. It is time to engage and empower the world in this effort and give each and all of us the power to stop human trafficking and transnational crime that funds terror and human suffering. SafeGuard Systems created the tool for us to do that. It’s time to act, and it is just that simple, ” concluded Sgt Fuda.
MIKE JACOBS (FOUNDER)
SafeGuard Systems, Inc.