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Operation Predator: Feds launch smartphone app to help capture child sex predators

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 05: Visitors try out the new Galaxy Note 3 smartphone at the Samsung stand at the IFA 2013 consumer electronics trade fair on September 5, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. The 2013 IFA will be open to the public from September 6-11. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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Federal officials have launched a new smartphone app aimed to help capture child sex predators.

(CBS) -- Federal officials are hoping to harness mobile technology to help capture suspected child sex predators, according to an announcement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations unit. The HSI on Thursday announced a new smartphone app known as "Operation Predator" that contains photos and information about fugitives and allows the public to submit tips.

"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," said ICE Acting Director John Sandweg in a statement. "These investigations are one of our highest priorities, and in today's world, we need to be technologically savvy and innovative in our approach."

The "Operation Predator" app will allow users to receive alerts about suspected child sex predators, share the information with friends via email and social media, and submit tips.

The app is available from Apple's App Store or iTunes, and ICE is working on expanding its' compatibility with other smartphones.

"The creation and launch of this application provides ICE another useful tool to reach the public," said ICE Director of Public Affairs Brian Hale in a statement. "We recognize that people receive a great deal of information on their mobile devices and we are hopeful that this app will encourage them to submit tips about suspects and to learn more about our work investigating child exploitation crimes."

In what officials describe as their most "urgent case," ICE is hoping the app will help them identify a suspected sexual predator who appears in videos obtained by Los Angeles Homeland Security agents executing a search warrant earlier this year. In the video, the unknown man is seen sexually abusing a girl who is believed to be about 10-12 years old.

ICE is asking anyone with information about the case or other fugitives to call 1-866-347-2423 or to submit a tip online at www.ice.gov/tips/.

  • Erin Donaghue

    Erin Donaghue covers crime for CBSNews.com's Crimesider.