It has been estimated that a shocking one in four children in foster care in the US falls victim to human trafficking. A new startup, Marinus Analytics, is working to change that statistic with a new software called Traffic Jam.
The crime-fighting tool from Marinus, a Pittsburgh-based company, will enable law enforcement agencies, criminal intelligence centers, and victim services organizations to fight human trafficking through investigative, machine learning software and big data technology. As a result, Marinus has been selected as one of eight finalists in the BNY Mellon Social Innovation Challenge sponsored by the Bank of New York Mellon, BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and The Forbes Funds. The winner of the $800,000 UpPrize will be announced at the event finale on July 31 in Pittsburgh.
Technology turning the tide in favor of law enforcement
Emily Kennedy, Founder and CEO of Marinus, explained to social-startups.de that Traffic Jam technology gives users the ability to prevent human trafficking, a crime that too often goes undetected. Kennedy, an alumna of Carnegie Mellon University, explained that she began developing the concept for Traffic Jam while working on her senior honors thesis. She discovered that law enforcement lacked the technology that would allow them to make use of massive amounts of online information (for example, online escort ads) that could provide clues about the identity of those involved in trafficking.
Decoding traffickers’ hidden activities online
Once she had identified the problem, Kennedy set out to apply data analytics to find meaningful patterns that would be useful to detectives and, while still a student at Carnegie Mellon, developed Traffic Jam to track pimps and possible victims across time and location using publically available information.
“We’re able to make new inferences and new evidential discoveries that humans alone could never do because there’s too much information,” said Kennedy.
For additional details about Traffic Jam, watch this short YouTube video:
Identifying criminals leads to recovery of victims
Marinus Analytics software has been attributed for helping detectives make inferences to discover leads that would have remained hidden. Kennedy cited a recent example of how Traffic Jam helped a detective identify the multiple aliases of a sex offender and pimp who had failed to register as a sex offender, been on the run for ten years, and had raped additional women during that time.
“Traffic Jam was the only way for the detective to keep track of this guy and find the evidential connection to arrest him,” stated Kennedy.
Expansion plans hinge on funding
Marinus’ Traffic Jam has helped to find and prosecute criminals and also rescue victims of trafficking, successes that have led to the expansion of its customer base in the US and Canada, and in only three years’ time, the six-fold growth of the team working on Traffic Jam.
The largest challenge currently facing Marinus is a scarcity of resources, but Kennedy hopes to change that at the UpPrize competition later this month. Kennedy said that law enforcement has asked Marinus to apply Traffic Jam technology to other areas, including the resale of counterfeit goods online and terrorist activities. But, how soon Kennedy and her team will be able to assist law enforcement in these new areas depends on funding.
About the author
Parisa Jade Baharian is a Washington, DC-based contributor. She currently works as a freelance writer and editor as well as a research consultant. As a researcher, Parisa has over nine years of experience of business intelligence collection and analysis across a broad range of industries and market segments. Her writing covers a range of topics, including education and social innovation. In her spare time, she enjoys martial arts and mentorship of kids.