US government leverages Apple's App Store in fight against child sex crimes

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A new iOS app released today by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is designed to enlist the public's help to track down child predators being sought for criminal prosecution.

Dubbed 'Operation Predator,' the app is representative of an emerging trend in law enforcement toward engaging the public and putting more information at people's fingertips. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the first federal law enforcement agency to embrace the technology.

The app displays profiles of fugitive and suspected child predators and allows the public to submit tips, anonymously, at any time. Users can also choose to receive push notifications of wanted individuals and share the information via social media. News about arrests and prosecutions as well as updates on ICE's operations are also offered.

While announcing the new app, John Sandweg, ICE Acting Director, stressed the importance of staying ahead of the curve: "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. These investigations are one of our highest priorities, and in today's world, we need to be technologically savvy and innovative in our approach," he said.

The Operation Predator app was developed by ICE's Office of Public Affairs with input from field offices around the United States and help from Homeland Security Investigations' Cyber Crimes Center.

ICE Director of Public Affairs Brian Hale called the app "another useful tool to reach the public," and went on to say that while ICE understands that mobile phone users can sometimes be overwhelmed with information, the agency is "hopeful that this app will encourage them to submit tips about suspects and to learn more about our work investigating child exploitation crimes."