Posted: Jan 22, 2019 8:00 AM
Updated: Jan 22, 2019 6:43 PM
EUGENE, Ore. -- There will soon be a new app to help fight human trafficking in our community.
The app was created in a team effort at the Technology Association of Oregon's Hack for a Cause event in April 2017. It's called Emerald Citizen.
The goal is to train people how to recognize signs of sex trafficking and safely collect and report information. It will help the Eugene Police Special Investigations Unit, which will monitor the database results for leads and trends. Police said they and the Lane County District Attorney's office have taken a strong stance against promoting and compelling prostitution.
"I hope it gives the message to traffickers that Lane County is not somebody to mess with," said Diana Janz, president and founder of Hope Ranch Ministries. "We are serious here, and we want to make a change. Like, don't mess with us because we are watching."
Tamara LeRoy, the trafficking intervention coordinator for Sexual Assault Support Servicess (SASS), said because trafficking takes on so many forms, it can be challenging to identify what it looks like. She also said it is difficult to track statistics.
"I don't know that (the app) would do anything to solve the problem, but I think it's a very good first start in really starting to identify what the problem is," LeRoy said.
LeRoy said it could be beneficial to have more community members that are trained to look for the signs.
There are prerequisites to becoming a community reporter using the Emerald Citizen application. While the goal is to increase the coverage of trained witnesses and provide valuable information to support police cases, those involved in the app and Eugene police will not compromise safety in order to accomplish that.
Community reporters must complete a two-part training series:
1. An awareness training that defines what to look for
2. Hands-on training using the application
Additionally, Emerald Citizen will conduct background checks on prospective reporters.
The app is still in development. To check on the app's progress and when it will be finished, click here.