April 28, 2022
The impact of web intelligence (WEBINT) on solving human trafficking and child abduction cases is immeasurable. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in 2021 there were 337,195 NCIC entries for missing children. WEBINT is used daily to locate and bring victims home after suffering traumatic experiences. However, agencies don’t have time to search large volumes of online data manually, especially when minutes count. When a child goes missing, investigators must act immediately, to maximize all investigative capabilities. One of those capabilities must be searching for online breadcrumbs using an automated WEBINT investigations tool. When a child abduction case occurs, leveraging WEBINT as part of the investigation can help to quickly find and return the victim to safety.
Police were called to the home of a teen girl who was reported missing by her parents in a southern town in the United States. The girl left the home during the night, but the parents could not narrow down the time of her disappearance. There was no history of family issues, bullying or previous runaway calls to the local police department. A search by her parents of their home, yard and surrounding neighborhood did not uncover any evidence of foul play in her disappearance. However, one important item was missing – her cell phone.
Initially, this discovery led the police to assume she left willingly. However, electronic evidence collected by detectives shifted their focus from a runaway case to a child abduction case. Detectives began to utilize all investigative technologies available to them to uncover potential leads in this child abduction case, including our WEBINT investigations platform to identify a potential suspect.
Using Cobwebs’ investigative platform, investigators narrowed in on the suspect based on his digital online presence in the area at the time of the abduction. Using AI-powered open-source (OSINT) technology and additional built-in analytics, investigators were able to focus on a suspect quickly. With additional online digital clues left by the suspect, investigators were able to determine his potential presence prior to the girl’s disappearance, as well as his possible residence. Finally, additional digital clues also confirmed that the victim met the suspect online and had never met him in real life.
WEBINT gathered through Cobwebs’ platform was critical to finding the abducted teen and to closing this child abduction case quickly. Using that data, investigators were able to piece together how the suspect met the victim, to locate the suspect’s residence and to rescue the teen. Charges are pending in this case.
Sifting through a mountain of data manually when a child is in danger was not an option for investigators. Leveraging Cobwebs’ investigative platform, investigators were able to identify digital clues, fuse together investigative research and clues to expedite the recovery of an abducted teen before further harm was caused to her. After a few horribly painful days for the victim and her family, she was rescued and reunited with her family.
Cobwebs WEBINT solutions are purpose-built by law enforcement investigators, national security experts and technology professionals to leverage open-source information and analytics to support a variety of missions. We complement the technology with a team of subject matter experts and analysts to support different uses, ranging from helping to solve child abduction cases and human trafficking to counterterrorism and benefits fraud.
While our team has different backgrounds and skill sets, collectively, we have a common passion for helping locate missing children and fighting human trafficking. When a child goes missing, we understand that seconds and minutes count – the sooner law enforcement can find actionable leads, the sooner a child can be brought home.