The Hideous Market…
Global Human trafficking in the 2nd fastest criminal industry in the world generating $150.3 Billion per year. In US, the estimated revenue of $31.6 Billion per year. Second only to Drug Trafficking which stands at $32.1 Billion. Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings. The two most common causes are:
- Debt Bondage: People are sold into this industry because they couldn’t pay back their debts/loans
- Sex Slavery: People are sold into this market for brothels and prostitution rings
The United States is a source, transit and destination country for sex trafficking victims. Often times it is seen as a foreign issue, but it happens to Americans as well.
Trafficking in North America
- Over 700 people are illegally brought into Canada every year for Sexual Slavery and Commercial Sex Trade
- Over 2000 of such victims are brought into US illegally through Canadian Border every year to fulfill an ever growing demand
- Over 50,000 people are illegally brought into US every year for around the world. ILLEGALLY!
- A good part of this in through Northern and Southern borders but International Airports have been the port of entry for many such victims
- Once in US, these victims are moved over night from City to City to avoid detection and de-risk the Victim from getting any sympathy or help from people indulging in sexual acts on a regular basis
In the United States, an estimated 460,000 children are reported missing every year. Over 2000 children go missing everyday in US. It is estimated that at least 100,000 children, girls and boys are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances. Human trafficking, the commercial sexual exploitation of American children and women, via the Internet, strip clubs, escort services, or street prostitution, is on its way to becoming one of the worst crimes in the U.S.
This is an industry that revolves around cheap sex on the fly, with young girls and women who are sold to 30-40 men each day for $25 apiece, while their handlers make $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year. This is not a problem found only in big cities. It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation.
It’s a common knowledge by now that there is a very small window, a 48 hrs window within which if a child is not rescued. They are lost to this Dark world of Human Trafficking. On average, a child might be raped by over 5,000 men during a five-year period of servitude. Those who are not rescued on time have an average life expectancy of seven years. Every day of those seven years they face death staring at their face. The chances of the victim being rescued is 1 : 14,000 but the chances of them being rescued before they become a victim is much much higher.
TRACKING THE FACELESS
The Story of Origin
We have seen the technology in several movies. Several of us form our opinion based on our understanding of the pros and cons as seen in movies. The technology is already out there. Its presence in China is mind boggling. However, to accept it as a Force Multiplier or be apprehensive of it based on Privacy concerns is something which has to be debated, evaluated and then adopted.
Few Years back, some concerned and alert Youngsters rolled out a Smartphone App in India. The plan was to create a Picture capturing application on a smart device. This application would compare a snapshot of possible victim with Lost Children directory of Mumbai Police and notify them if a match was found. Later versions enabled the capture of Geo-Location as well. This smart phone based App was well accepted and adopted by residents of Mumbai, who started snapping pictures of children begging on streets. Some of these children were as small as few months old and were be carried around by some beggar who would claim the baby to be hers and beg for alms using the baby for empathy. In most cases the baby would in no way resemble the beggar and it was an easy guess for anyone that it was a lost or abducted child. The App resulted in several arrests and the unearthing of a criminal network operating in Mumbai.
Our Initial Efforts
Our first attempt to bring this successful facial recognition app to the western world and trying it to help locate and rescue lost children was highly unsuccessful. Privacy laws in western world doesn’t allow any private citizen of taking pictures of strangers/children not known to them. Any act of such kind will see adverse reaction from Law Enforcement as well as from general population.
For the past several months, our team in Texas has been working closely with Senators, House Representatives and Law Enforcement officers as well as the Attorney General’s office to refine the approach. The process of private citizens taking pictures and sending it to Law Enforcement database for comparison has been replaced by existing camera infrastructure which is readily available in Public/Private areas such as Commercial Airports, Bus Stations, Railway Stations and Gas Stations. Plans are to match visual feeds from such places with existing Lost Children database to try and track children reported missing or abducted in recent days. Although easier said than done – this process is itself getting further refined to the level that it technically doesn’t invade into anyone’s privacy but it still works to rescue Lost and Abducted kids or prevent runaway children from getting trapped in this dark world of modern day sex slavery.
The success of this program depends on several factors. Determination of Leaders of represent us in State Houses and Senates, Law Enforcement officers, funding available to keep working on this program from an infrastructure and technology research perspective. The biggest differentiator of this technology vs the rest is its nimbleness in adapting to its installed environment and the fact that it is not looking for Criminals or Pimps. It is look and searching for Potential Victim who will be lost if not found well within 48 hrs of him or her reported lost.
The Program has two pronged approach:
- Prototyping the Solution
- Advocacy for changes in Legislation to help put up a stronger battle against Human Trafficking