Blog

Ripple Effect: Hackathon Participants Lead Fight Against Sex Trafficking

Technology Association of Oregon
May 11, 2017

 

Technology Association of Oregon hosted Hack for a Cause in April in Eugene, Oregon, where participants were asked to put their coding and software skills to the test to enhance downtown livability and improve their community.

Lane County Against Trafficking community task force (previously Lane County Human Trafficking Task Force) put forth a challenge that Caroline Cummings, Diana Janz, and Pamela Kinion joined forces to tackle. A smartphone app, Emerald Citizen, which allows users to report suspicious activity with regards to sex trafficking to local police more easily. The reporter’s information can be sent similar to a text message, which is then collected in a database that police can access.

“If a hotel, for example, notices trafficking in his establishment, they would enter relevant information and send it using the app,” said Kinion. “Cases can be solid if you get a lot of witnesses who see something and if they've been trained properly.”

The three innovators behind the app are targeting spring of 2018 to host the Eugene Traffic Jam, a two-day workshop series, with the focus centering on sex trafficking prevention along the I-5 corridor, from Canada to Mexico. Aside from involving law enforcement, the goal of this initiative is to roll out Emerald Citizen at the summit and include other communities along the I-5 corridor, common areas for sex trafficking, and to train and allow people how to use the app.

“This team went above and beyond,” expressed Kinion. “Police loved the mapping ability. The next set of enhancements will allow the development team to begin using the app to test it. The goal is to roll out a more robust version to the general public beginning at the Summit.”  

Cummings, Janz, and Kinion will serve as the three beta users, then will offer training to identify the suspicious behavior of potential perpetrators. People with certified training will have access to Emerald Citizen but figuring out how to separate proper reporting remains a key objective.The team is working with a Eugene sergeant to create a specific two-step training, which Kinion and Janz would lead. They must determine who in their task force would have access to the app and intend to certify trainees periodically as they work out bugs.  

As they aim to roll out Emerald Citizen more widely, the team has been in contact with Thorn, an organization driven towards combating child sexual exploitation. Thorn, notably founded by actor Ashton Kutcher, has a large-scale presence on the west coast.  

The group is looking forward to working with local tech companies to develop its capabilities and TAO to promote the app’s functions regionally.