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O.U.R. 2016 Mid-Year Review: An Intimate Talk With Tim Ballard

O.U.R. 2016 Mid-Year Review: An Intimate Talk With Tim Ballard

The following are excerpts from a filmed interview with Tim Ballard on the progress Operation Underground Railroad has made in the first half of 2016.

Tim Ballard:

We have made huge strides this year. The thing I’m most impressed with is that half way through the year we’ve already seen as many or more rescues and arrests as we did last year. We’re probably close to double in terms of the countries we’re working in and the partners that we have.

We have been highly requested here in the States to work in several jurisdictions. We’ve met with several law enforcement officials in various states and set a goal that we would see at least one hundred pedophiles arrested in one year’s time. And just a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of summer we hit that goal. We surpassed it in fact, with over a hundred pedophiles.

These are people that were seeking for children on line as young as nine years old. And we were able to provide the tools to pull these guys out, and inevitably be able to find the children who were actually being abused. So we’re very proud of that accomplishment.

CET-COE:

One of the great accomplishments this year was the announcement of our CET-COE, Child Exploitation Targeting Center of Excellence which is housed at the University of North Carolina, in Charlotte.

We’re actually set up right now to be doing the very unique and different types of operations that we haven’t see a whole lot of yet, using a lot of high-tech strategies to go in and find children who need rescuing and get these horrible, perverted people off the streets.

Technology:

The technology we’re developing is for everybody. In fact, sometimes it’s geared towards law enforcement overseas who just have such limited resources and they don’t have a lot of man power so we can make up for that through tools that allow one cop to do the work of five. And it doesn’t cost them anything.

One reason that we created Operation Underground Railroad is because we saw this need. These law enforcement officers with great hearts, with a desire to help and make their country better, but they had no resources.

O.U.R. Short Term Goals:

We have quite a few operations set for the rest of the year. We’ve already hit our goals, so we’re going to keep pushing, and may exceed expectations. There are multiple countries who have asked us to come in. We’ve already started setting up shop there so we’ll be seeing more operations from now to the end of the year in various places throughout the world.

We’re not meeting our demands though. It’s very difficult for us to sit back and say, ‘Where do we go?’ because we could go almost anywhere now. This is why we need to grow financially. We need more people to become abolitionists because we are not even meeting the demands of law enforcement around the world who need these tools; who need our support.

O.U.R Long Term Goals:

We’ve always talked about setting up offices overseas and we’re starting to do that. These offices are like targeting centers; they’re labs. We are focused on the high technology side to attack this problem. And you’re going to see a lot of more permanent offices in the next several years, offices in various countries that are sponsored in part or fully by Operation Underground Railroad. These offices will be high tech in nature, in terms of the tools that we’re offering, and integrating because with these tools, one police officer can do the work of five officers.

We need to be a force multiplier in this problem. There are way too many kids out there relative to how many police there are looking for them. We built our tools with that in mind. ‘How can we maximize whatever resources are already out there? How can we maximize that?’ Become a force multiplier because with five times the cop power, we rescue five times the kids.

Partnerships:

Our partnerships are mostly focused on the rehabilitation end of things. It’s so important; in fact, it’s the most important thing that we do. We have to have in place something for the rescued children because so often the parents are not suitable or there are no parents or they are part of the problem.

We’ve really recognized that we need to put more into the rehab side and that’s a really delicate thing. We go into these countries that are very developing and we don’t always find the rehab partners that we want, so we have to spend a lot of time building them up.

One country that we are in right now, took us a year to get operational, even though the law enforcement officers in that country were green-lighting the operations. Now, we’re about to do our fourth operation in that particular country because that part (aftercare) is in place.

We hired a new director of rehab, Jessica Mass, who just does an amazing job. She’s partnered with rehab places, facilities, shelters, here in every state in the United States and in every country that we’ve been in, over 15 countries. She has gone and spent a tremendous amount of time finding our partners who we know, that when we have these children, we’re comfortable placing them there.

It’s so rewarding to watch some of these survivors become thrivers. We go back all the time, multiple times a year. ‘How are they doing? What do they need?’ This one wants to be a chef; this one wants to go to college. We can help with that. And we’re watching these stories unfold now. That’s a new development, an exciting development for us.

In 2016, I’d say one of our biggest highlights is the expansion and growth of our aftercare program and the wonderful partners that we’ve been able to make and trust, and watch the kids go there and know they have a chance.

Recruiting:

First and foremost our jump team members have to be brave. I mean, we’re asking them to do very dangerous things. Go into a foreign county. Go in undercover. Walk into a trafficker’s house who would just as soon kill them if they knew who they were.

We seek out law enforcement officers who have experience in rescuing children in anti-trafficking enforcement. It’s so important that these people have the utmost integrity; that they have good hearts. One thing we do, and frankly it’s on purpose, is when we do these tryouts and the training, we ask them to pay for part of that expense of coming over here. And that’s because we want to see who really cares.

I know that every guy that I recruited, especially in the beginning, had to walk away from pensions. They had to walk away from government security. And the fact that they were willing to do that told me that that’s who I want on my team. If you don’t have the heart for this, you’re not going to last long. It’s great to see these people who are willing to fly themselves here and sacrifice financially just to have the chance to make the team.

The Jump Team:

I think very few people are willing to do what our operators do. I mean you sacrifice your innocence in ways that are so incredibly uncomfortable and painful that it’s very rare to find someone to do this.

These kids are in hell. We’ve seen things that you can’t even imagine happen in hell. And the only way to get to those kids is to go in there. You’ve got to be willing go in there and not flinch while you’re there. Anyone willing to do that is just so amazing to me.

It’s like someone willing to run into a burning building. That’s what these guys do every day. It’s a different kind of burning building but it’s no less precarious, no less dreadful and they do it. And I’m so proud to associate with some of these operators that we have working for us – amazing guys – and girls.

Rescues:

It’s imperative to us that our policies on rescue operations are very clear to our partners and donors. We are not a vigilante group. We work with and under the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies that officially and formally bring us on board. If that doesn’t happen, we don’t operate. But, once we are official we move forward.

Every operation is so different. Our operators will go, usually pretending to be like the other tourists, looking for illicit contact with kids. And then they infiltrate it, and this is where their expertise comes into play in that region; they’ll go in and know how to talk and what to say; how to dig in.

Other times it’s very specific; as specific as, here is this child who’s missing. We can come in with our technology, teach them. We’ve had cases where we look at facial recognition technology that allows us to go in and identify this child that was taken and maybe being sold in a different continent. So it really does vary.

A lot of what we’re doing now though, is targeting pedophiles and traffickers using tools that allow us to exploit places on the Internet where kids are being sold. The dark net is a place where people work with impunity because they think no one’s watching. We’re trying to build tools to help law enforcement to get to those places quicker and more efficiently and understand that world so they can pull these kids out.

Case Story:

In one case, this individual had this child that was being exploited. It was quite a distance from our office and we were expecting to go do the operation the following week. But our operators who are experts on line, were able to identify that this was a problem that couldn’t even wait three days.

And because we have such awesome donors and awesome supporters, they were made aware of the emergency without giving them details. One of our donors said, ‘You need to get somewhere to save kids? Just get to the airport. My plane will be waiting for you.’

I literally left the my kid’s basketball game that I was coaching with nothing, jumped in my car and sped to the airport, got on that plane and had that guy arrested and those kids saved, and those kids placed in safety within 12 to 15 hours. That was an emotional case just because we knew we had to get there fast. But, this is where we have the kind of comparative advantage where we can just go.

The whole flight over I have her image in my head. Five years old and we were able to get to her and pull her out of that situation and that guy’s in jail right now.

The Danger For Children

It’s usually men, perverted men have access to children in various ways; sometimes their own children or a niece or a nephew. They take advantage of the situation where the parents are out of the picture for some reason and they take this child under their wing, so-to-speak, but really they’re grooming them and exploiting them.

They go on line and start selling, sometimes they want to exchange this child for someone else’s child and they want to set up these horrific dark escapades. All I can say is that we have the tools and the ability to have law enforcement intervene in those deals. To find out where they’re happening and when they’re happening, intervene, intercept the deal, and then infiltrate and dismantle.

Eradicating Child Sex Trafficking:

That’s still the goal. We know that it can work. It works on a small scale. We go into one city, do several operations, and we shut it down. At the end of our operations, we can’t find anyone who’s willing to sell kids, all of them citing the previous operations that we previously conducted.

If it works on a small scale, why can’t it work on a large sale? We just need more people, more organizations, and more governments on board. If we made the response to selling kids for sex so powerful, you could literally scare people from thinking about doing it. That’s our goal.

I do believe that we can eradicate this. It’s going to take a long time, but with enough support and enough growth, we are building the tools that can eradicate this.

What You Can Do:

We need your help to make a difference. If you haven’t donated to our cause, please visit our web site at OURrescue.org and start today. Every dollar helps rescue children and ensures they receive the recovery care they need. If you already donate, please take the opportunity to evaluate if you can give more. We’ve already completed more rescues to date in 2016 than we did in all of 2015. We need your support to continue at this pace and fund additional rescue operations. We can’t do it without you. Thank you!

Interviewed and Edited by: Cheryl L. Karr

O.U.R. attends FBI Training in Thailand

O.U.R. attends FBI Training in Thailand

Last month in Thailand, O.U.R. was invited by the FBI to participate in their Responding to Victims of Human Trafficking training, put on by the FBI’s Office of Victims Assistance. The goal of this training is to set a standard across the board in which governments, local police, NGOs and social workers can operate on victim centered investigations and victim identification. But what does this mean? In almost every case of the trafficking of minors, the underage victims are coached by their captors to lie about their age, the fact that they are being coerced into this work, and to lie about where they come from. They are even given fake Identification documents with different names, ages, and purpose of work. Often, the victims are told that Westerners will sell them for body parts or various other gruesome acts, leaving the victims too scared to ask for help or trust someone offering help. The captors do this because they know that many NGOs such as O.U.R. are looking for the minors in order to set them free. By instilling fear of the very people that want to help, the captor exercises more control and dominance over the victim. For these reasons, a training program aimed to identify a victim is extremely important because in many raids, the information given by the coached victims would lead one to believe that they are there by choice, not that they are in fact scared, hurt, and enslaved. It is crucial to set up a system in which investigators, police, and social workers can use their own training and knowledge to identify a victim, even if it is contrary to what the victim is actually saying. This helps ensure that no slave is left behind or overlooked simply because they were perceived to be there by their own volition.

The FBI training in Thailand focuses on victim recognition by basing investigations around the victims needs. This is done by learning different methods of interviewing in which the interviewer is sensitive to the traumatization of the victim and comes from a place of understanding the circumstances and backgrounds of sexually trafficked minors. Another goal of the FBI training is to work with foreign and local governments to combat trafficking. Rather than have many groups that attempt to combat trafficking on their own, this training is designed to bring local and foreign governments, NGOs, social workers, and police forces together to create a standard under which all parties operate. O.U.R.’s Director of Regional Operations says, “It is important for O.U.R. to be in attendance of these trainings. One, it maintains a healthy relationship between us and the U.S. government, and two, it helps us network and connect with trusted local law enforcement, passionate about the same cause.”

The ultimate goal now for O.U.R. is to continue participating in such trainings with the FBI and to bring this type of collaborative, victim focused training to countries in which O.U.R. is currently operating but does not yet exist.

The problem of human trafficking becomes larger and more widespread by the day and we must come together, strong and unified, to save those in need.

After The Abolitionists Movie Premier

After The Abolitionists Movie Premier

 

Silence is not always golden. In fact, many injustices continue today because those who would fight against them are not aware they even exist. Such is the case with child sex trafficking and slavery – until now.

The feature-length documentary The Abolitionists premiered in theaters nation-wide May 16th, enlightening audiences who previously were blissfully unaware of this dark side of the world.

They now know that child sex slavery is one of the biggest plagues of our day and is growing by the minute. Sweet, innocent children, are kidnapped, sold, or tricked into becoming sex slaves and movie stars of pornographic videos. It is real. It is happening. And it needs to be stopped.

The Abolitionists is the story about a former CIA officer and HSI agent, Tim Ballard, who unwillingly became exposed to this dark side of humanity during his 12 years with the government.

It only took one rescue for Ballard to realize these children needed saving. Since then he has left government service and begun his own non-profit organization, Operation Underground Railroad, to rescue these children.

Movie theaters were sold out across the country for the premier. Some were bought by modern-day abolitionists who are doing what they can to help rescue these children. Other theaters, simply sold individual tickets. The Larry H. Miller Theaters donated all proceeds of the movie to O.U.R. for the rescuing of children – a very generous gift.

Current estimates put viewers at around 35,000 for the May 16th event. Exact figures are still coming in. Reactions have been inspiring. People have been shocked, saddened and amazed at what is happening to children around the world. Here are just a few of the comments from viewers:

“When I saw the movie The Abolitionists, I was heartbroken at just how many innocent children are being forced to be trafficked and forced to be sex slaves.” William Billiam

“Well done. Didn’t like the subject matter, but that’s why it made an impact. God bless this film and the light it is shining on human trafficking.” Helen Matter

“Very inspirational and informative for everyone. We really need to work together to stop human trafficking.” Melissa Peters

“As dark as the subject matter is, I love the hope and light that are fighting the darkness!” Jenn Foote

A movement has begun. Since the premier of the film on May 16th, volunteers are signing up with O.U.R. in record numbers to help rescue these children.

“It has been amazing to see the response of people after they have seen the film. They are motivated and ready to do all they can to put an end to this atrocity,” said O.U.R.’s National Volunteer Coordinator Jani Dix. “People are willing to give their time and talents and truly believe they need to be part of this solution. There is a lot of darkness in this world and you see that in the film, but there is also so much light and the O.U.R. volunteers are a testament of that.”

Since the premier of the film, over 550 volunteers have signed up to help O.U.R. fight this plague, bringing together an army of 1300 worldwide to rescue these children. And there is something everyone can do.

You don’t need to donate money to help, although that is a great way and very much needed. Many volunteers offer their talents to the cause. Some are helping by organizing events, some are writing articles or giving presentations that spread the word. We encourage you to help in whatever way you can, because once you know this is going on, it is very difficult to do nothing.

Helen Keller once said, “I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Tim Ballard saw something wrong and is doing what he can to right it. “My goal is to eradicate this heinous crime all around the world. That may take some time, but I believe we can do it.”

What will you do to help? Visit our website at ourrescue.org to discover the many ways you can make a difference.

If you have not been able to see the movie, The Abolitionists yet, you can request it to play at your local theater by inquiring at  http://theabolitionistsmovie.com/contact/.

Planting Seeds of Hope

Planting Seeds of Hope

 

“Lani” looked so young when she was rescued by Operation Underground Railroad that law enforcement was sure she was a minor. Her protests to the contrary were useless. Unless she could provide solid evidence that she was 18 years old, she would need to meet with the social workers at the aftercare shelter.

O.U.R.’s mission is to rescue children who are being trafficked for sex by pimps and pedophiles, and help them in their recovery. Often, in that net, we rescue those who are not considered children. They may be 18 years old or 25 or more. Most likely they were started as child prostitutes by traffickers and now know no other way of life. But, because they are no longer minors, they are free to leave the aftercare that O.U.R.provides all minors following a rescue.

Lani called for someone to bring her ID to prove she was an adult, but while waiting, she learned that she had options. She did not have to live this type of life any more. For three days the social workers helped her to understand that there is loving support for people caught in her situation. Although tempted by the thought of freedom, the strong connection she had to her pimp/boyfriend drew her back to him once her ID arrived and she could prove she was eighteen.

It is heart breaking to see someone who is caught in the jaws of hell, wanting to be free, yet fearing what the unknown offers. In Lani’s case, O.U.R.’s local aftercare partners continued to check on her, letting her know there is still help should she choose it.

Eventually, she and her pimp moved away. Lani soon became pregnant with her pimp’s baby. Fear engulfed her as she realized this baby’s future was in the hands of her pimp. She did not want her baby to live the kind of hell she was living. Yet, she knew there was a high probability that this child would one day become a prostitute if she stayed with this man. What could she do?

Secretly, she slipped away from the village in search of the social worker who had helped her following the O.U.R. rescue. She found her in the city and in desperation asked if the ‘other options’ were still available to her, telling her how she did not want her baby to grow up being trafficked by this man as she had been.

It takes a lot of strength for a young woman to leave a controlling pimp/trafficker and seek help. He had assured her many times, “You will starve in the streets. I will kill you if you leave.” But, leave she did, into the loving arms of O.U.R.’s aftercare partners.

Today, Lani is living with her newborn in freedom at a home for single mothers, receiving vocational training and emotional counseling as she dreams about the future of her life and that of her child.

This is the type of outcome O.U.R. hopes for all the children and adults we rescue. Collaboration with local officials and local aftercare support is pivotal in making this happen and O.U.R. has experts working hard daily to create these partnerships.

Adults are not treated as criminals and are not held against their will, but we do try to plant the seeds of hope and ‘other options’ that are available to them so that when they are ready, as in the case of Lani, they will seek us out.

That time may not be today. It may not be six months from today. But, once they know there is a better way, a safer way, that thought will begin to grow. And that thought may, one day, turn to action. And when that happens, we will be there for them.

We at O.U.R. believe we can make a difference in this most important step. Believe with us and join the O.U.R. team in building hope and freedom from exploitation. There are a number of ways you can do this from becoming a recurring donor (an abolitionist), to volunteering, to creating a fundraising campaign of your own. Visit ourrescue.org on how to get started.

Written by: Cheryl L. Karr

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming A Global Force For Good: The Creation of CET-COE

Becoming A Global Force For Good: The Creation of CET-COE

CET-COE – Becoming A Global Force For Good

Child Exploitation Targeting Center of Excellence

By Caleb Larkin

Operation Underground Railroad is taking a great leap forward in the fight against child sex slavery and expanding its influence and outreach with its first Child Exploitation Targeting Center of Excellence (CET-COE) http://ourrescue.or/technology.

The center opened June 8th in Charlotte, North Carolina as a start to establishing a technological foothold in various parts of the world. This new center shows the progress O.U.R. is making in the fight against sex trafficking.

The main purpose of this and future CET-COE locations is to provide law enforcement with the vital targeting and intelligence analysis capabilities needed to fight the exploitation of children. An added bonus is having central locations where our jump teams can be working with the intelligence and targeting teams along side law enforcement.

O.U.R. partnered with Delitor Inc, and the University of North Carolina to work with the many organizations, government and non-governmental organizations alike (NGOs) to develop new software to identify victims and perpetrators.

O.U.R.’s Law Enforcement Services Director, Dale, referred to the new opening of CET-COE as a successful collaboration. “I was very pleased with the support from the local community and especially our law enforcement partners who were very eager to have more tools at their fingertips in the fight to end child sex slavery.”

The center is an essential step forward for O.U.R.’s goal to establish a real physical presence domestically and abroad. “The purpose of this CET-COE is like a fusion meeting or enforcement center,” Dale explained.

The center in North Carolina and future ones like it are designed to aid law enforcement in bringing about the end of child exploitation in every form by leveraging information from known pedophiles in order to find victims and their perpetrators.

“Everyone felt like focusing these expansions on technology was the best way to have an effect on a global level,” Dale emphasized. As technology advances, O.U.R. understands that everyone and everything uses technology to further their purposes today, including human traffickers. The centers will help O.U.R. stay ahead of criminals by using software to help track and identify trends and threats throughout the world.

“As nice as it would be to have a jump team in every city, it’s just not feasible. But having this technology everywhere is,” Dale said. “Getting the software to identify child traffickers, that is something we can accomplish and are now working towards it.”

O.U.R.’s founder and CEO, Tim Ballard, has always had a vision to have an O.U.R. office in key locations to quicken response times and have closer interactions with in-country law enforcement. “We’re extremely thrilled to be rolling out O.U.R.’s Center of Excellence on the UNC – Charlotte campus,” Ballard said.

“Technology and the internet is what enables so much of the sex trafficking that occurs in the United States and around the world, but with the right tools, we can use our own technology to combat these criminals who prey on our children and the world’s most vulnerable who fall victim to trafficking and pornography.”

The facilities will allow O.U.R. to have our own people at each CET-COE location, instead of having to plan out operations in the U.S. and then transfer people and equipment to the mission location.

“We think of it like this: The U.S. has headquarters in D.C., but we have embassies in other countries. So this is like an O.U.R. embassy where we have headquarters at these different facilities,” Dale said. “We plan to build targeting packages, develop research in select locations and work with local law enforcement in these areas.”

The CET-COE project has met several challenges along the way – the first being funding. “It’s an expensive project, especially to get the talent and experience needed to run these centers,” Dale explained. “We need people who are extremely invested and it’s harder to get people in place with the expertise needed while taking a pay cut.”

Another difficult challenge came in selecting the ideal location for the site. “We have to balance proximity to law enforcement for easier access and keeping the center isolated enough to keep the data protected, “ Dale explained.

Despite these ongoing challenges, Dale sees the establishment of the center as a “huge step toward becoming a global organization and extending O.U.R.’s reach.” He expects the future expansions to be equally significant. “We have been trying to establish ourselves as a global organization. This will actually establish a footprint in multiple countries across the globe,” said Dale.

O.U.R. plans to continue to open these centers to increase their global reach, influence and presence in an abolitionist movement. The next CET-COE facilities are planned to open in late summer and fall of this year.

“We are choosing certain areas and locations to expand to first, but eventually we would like a CET-COE in every part of the world,” Dale said. “This is a huge sign of success for O.U.R. It signifies we are prepared to expand and combat slavery in all corners of the globe.”

 

 

 

Standing Shoulder To Shoulder In Cambodia

Standing Shoulder To Shoulder In Cambodia

By Caleb Larkin

In Asia alone, there are approximately 13.5 million human sex trafficking victims according to the U.S. State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report” (July 2015, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245365.pdf). The U.S. State Department also estimates about two-thirds of all human trafficking victims worldwide reside in Asia. One organization located at the heart of the issue in Cambodia is working to change those numbers and save lives.

“One girl is too many. One day is too long.” is a motto that Agape International Missions (AIM – http://agapewebsite.org/) lives by. Operation Underground Railroad established a recent partnership with AIM to provide resources, such as funding and training. In 2016 alone, AIM and O.U.R.’s joint efforts have already led to five rescue operations with 22 victims rescued and seven traffickers arrested.

AIM, which has been fighting sex trafficking since 2005, has rescued 539 victims and estimates it has had an immediate impact on over 10,000 people by rescuing, restoring and reintegrating victims, as well as, directly preventing sex slavery in Cambodia.

Ashleigh Allard has been the Development Coordinator at AIM since October 2015. “I don’t think I understood the gravity of the issue before working with AIM. It’s hard to calculate the number of children who are being trafficked for sex,” she said. “We’ve rescued girls as young as four years old. Hearing that would break anyone’s heart.”

“Operation Bullhorn” was the most recent mission where O.U.R. provided training and funding for AIM’s rescue. On March 29th, AIM’s rescue team freed six minors and three adults in a massage parlor front for human trafficking. Phnom Penh’s Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Services arrested one trafficker in the raid on the parlor in the Kendall province in Cambodia. After a two-week undercover operation, AIM uncovered evidence that indicated the parlor manager was selling the children for sex. AIM has since relocated the six minors to a rehabilitation center to assist in the recovery process.

Allard explained the partnership with O.U.R. provides AIM with resources and support to enhance their ability to conduct recovery operations in Cambodia. “The rescue side of what AIM does aligns with O.U.R.’s mission,” she said. “O.U.R. helps provide the funds for raids.” This partnership is vital to O.U.R. in expediting our ability to connect with the existing law enforcement, aftercare, and community to enhance their role in eradicating sex trafficking locally.

The goal of O.U.R. is not to liberate every child ourselves, but to empower those agencies already doing great work. O.U.R. is able to enhance their tools and resources so they can have a larger impact and rescue more children while arresting and prosecuting traffickers.  O.U.R. consistently works with law enforcement so that the traffickers can be arrested through proper legal channels.

AIM’s goal focuses on four main areas: prevention, rescue, restoration, and reintegration. The organization has set up 12 different programs all focusing on some aspect of their goal. AIM owns and operates two transitional homes. These homes focus on victims 18 and older to find employment, receive counseling and “get back on a good trajectory for a successful life.”

In addition to their transitional homes, AIM owns three employment centers to help victims reintegrate and promote prevention of human trafficking through sustainable jobs. “One of these employment centers employs members of the community known for generational sex trafficking. Providing sustainable jobs breaks the cycle of exploitation,” Allard said. AIM also owns a retail store, Made, to help fund their efforts, an emergency family care center, an elementary school, and a gym called The Lord’s Gym, which focuses on kickboxing, allowing men to come in and train. Allard explained this key to help in prevention; to get men and others involved in a different cause, one that appeals to them such as kickboxing.

The Lord’s Gym is a preventative measure to help keep those who may be susceptible to evils of sex trafficking, on the right track and away from desperate and terrible mistakes. AIM feels it’s vital to get involved with the community before sex trafficking seeps into an individual’s life in order to complete eradicate sex trafficking.

“Brandon”, the director of regional operations with O.U.R., works closely with AIM’s operations in Cambodia. Brandon praised AIM’s efforts not only on their rescues, but also on the rehabilitation side. “AIM is very focused on the rehabilitation process,” he said. “They have a Muay Thai fight school. It’s a very good connection to the locals and helps in that rehabilitation process. AIM does a really good job of helping the victims go to the communities where they come from.”

Brandon, with a 20-year military background in special ops, as well as a Master’s degree in forensics and training by the Department of Defense in Trafficking in Persons, recognizes the strength a partnership with AIM gives to combating sex trafficking in Cambodia. “O.U.R. really wouldn’t have been able to work in Cambodia without this partnership,” he said.

“It would take years of work to establish ourselves in Cambodia, but when we partner with an organization, we can get the work done more quickly.” He also explained that the funds O.U.R. provides to AIM equates to a fraction of the cost to send jump team members there in just airfare and hotel cost. Brandon feels the partnership helps cut costs and allows O.U.R. to work with AIM instead of “reinventing the wheel.”

With the five joint operations in 2016 with AIM, Brandon has seen the benefits of working together towards a common goal. From first establishing the connection with AIM, to the most recent success with “Operation Bullhorn,” Brandon continues to play a vital role in providing training and funding to AIM’s effort to curb the human trafficking infection in Southeast Asia.

How can people get involved?

One way that people can get involved is being educated on the issue. There are organizations all over the world that are combating this issue. We all are capable of fighting the issue, using the talents, abilities and skills we already possess. Allard feels that people need to find a niche they are passionate about and follow it. “No matter where you live, there is likely an organization that is fighting human trafficking,” she said. “Just being aware of the issue, however, isn’t enough. We need people who are willing to act.”

Sex Sting Nabs Alleged Child Predators

Sex Sting Nabs Alleged Child Predators

Posted: Friday, May 6, 2016 in the Appealdemocrat.com

By Monica Vaughan/mvaughan@appealdemocrat.com

The child sex sting that led to a Yuba City planning commissioner’s arrest and subsequent resignation was part of a months-long, resource-intensive operation that resulted in criminal charges filed against five other men.

The most recent arrests were Tuesday night, when two men were hancuffed and questioned after they separately showed up at a meeting location where they presumably planned to have sex with 9- and 14-year-old girls.

“They’re predators in our community. They’re looking for kids to have sex with. Grown men are looking for children to have sex with,” said Jason Parker, chief investigator at the Sutter County Districk Attorney’s Office, which is coordinating the stings.

“When we set operations up, we know these guys are out there. Our goal is to go after them.”

While similar stings have been conducted across the country for years, this is the first sting in Yuba-Sutter to focus on child sex crimes. It was created and led by District Attorney Amanda Hopper, with support from the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office, the Yuba City Police Department and an outside organization, Operation Underground Railroad.

“Much of public safety is reacting to crime after it occurs. This operation was proactive,” Hopper told the AppealDemocrat in her first public statements about the operation.

Men who were arrested in the Sutter County stings are accused of reaching out to what they believe to be people offering children for sex. They allegedly clearly communicated what they would do with the minors, and showed up at a pre-arranged meeting, presumably with the intent to rape or molest children.

Defense attorneys representing men arrested in the stings, who were contacted by the Appeal-Democrat, said they were not yet familiar enough with the operation to provide a statement.

While the sting operation is seemingly bait to trap would-be perpetrators, Deputy District Attorney Clint Curry said it isn’t entrapment.

“A person is entrapped if a law enforcement officer engages in conduct that would cause a normally law-abiding person to commit that crime,” Curry said. “It’s an objective test. It doesn’t matter subjectively what’s in the suspect’s mind. It looks at behavior of the government agent.”

In this operation, detectives don’t offer people any motivation or reason to come to the meeting, he said. For example, he said, they don’t say “If you have sex with this child, she will be freed from slavery.”

Staff from Operation Underground Railroad assisted the agencies in implementing the plan.

“We’re a small rural community with limited resources,” Hopper said. “Operation Underground Railroad provided the support, experience and education and resources that we would not otherwise have.”

“One of the things the District Attorney’s Office agrees with Operation Underground Railroad in, is the need to educate people about how real child sexual exploitation is, and that it’s here and it’s everywhere.”

Each operation required hours of commitment from officers in three law enforcement agencies, Hopper said.

Details were not immediately available about how much staff time the operation cost.

“Every person there (Tuesday) had already worked full days and nights, and then more days. They put in the hours because they wanted to, because they had the opportunity to do good for Sutter County and to protect its children,” Hopper said.

Sheriff J. Paul Parker said it’s “absolutely” worth it for four or five of his deputies to work flex time or overtime to participate.

While most arrests of suspected sexual predators are made after a victim comes forward, the crimes the men caught in this sting operation allegedly committed have no real victims.

“It’s cheaper to intercept (these crimes) before they occur than after they occur,” he said.

After a sex crime has been committed against a child, “you have a victim, someone who has been traumatized for the rest of their life. How do you put a monetary value on that? You can’t.” This (operation) is a fiscally conservative approach,” Parker said. I think it’s been very successful.”

The suspects

The seven arrested men don’t seem to share any traits aside from their gender.

“We’ve seen 18-years-old, 50-years-old, economically well-to-do and we’ve seen dirt poor. We’ve seen different racial groups represented,” said Deputy District Attorney Clint Curry. “The only thing they have in common is they have a penis.”

Aside from Ivin Rhyne Jr., a former Yuba City planning commissioner who works with the California Energy Commission, most of the men caught in the sting live in the Sacramento Valley, but outside of Yuba-Sutter.

Jeffery M. Albo, 50 from Washington state, told investigators he was in the area as a contractor for three weeks at Beale Air Force Base.

Albo and Timothy L. Neher, 40, were arrested Tuesday evening, after they separately showed up at different times at the meeting location. Both are married with children, according to court documents.

Charges filed against them in Sutter County Superior Court on Thursday include felonies for attempting to perform sexual acts with a child and for arranging and appearing at a meeting with the intent to perform sex acts with a child. The most serious count is punishable by night years in prison.

Law enforcement officials involved in the operation say the men are predators, and the operation allows those men to be weeded out. The point was argued Thursday during Albo’s arraignment in front of Judge Christopher Chandler.

Although Albo has no criminal history, “This is the kind of crime that happens in secret,” Curry said. “It takes a lot of resources for law enforcement to ferret out.”

Albo’s attorney, Chris Carlos, argued Albo has never been arrested, and it’s “not appropriate to say he might have something out there. (He has) no criminal history.”

Assuming Albo did what officers say he did, “he made a mistake,” Carlos told the judge.

How it works

Each sting operation requires weeks of preparation. From start to finish, some 20 officers are involved.

“Every cop who works these goes, ‘This is what law enforcement is about. This is what I always wanted to do’,” Parker said.

On Tuesday evening, more than a dozen detectives gathered at a remote location to await the arrival of a suspect. Undercover officers posed to meet the suspect, as clearly armed officers on arrest teams waited nearby, prepared to cuff the suspect after a signal was communicated.

The suspect said he would meet at the spot when he left work.

In the days leading to the meeting, he and a few other men communicate with an undercover detective who claimed to have access to children available for sexual acts. There was no discussion of an exchange of money, only an interest in sex with children.

Audio and video surveillance was wired in the meeting location, which officers observed in a nearby room.

“Our hopes would be that we set up an operation and have no one respond,” Parker said.

That hasn’t been the case. At least on arrest has been made each of the five times detectives set up a location. On several occasions, men have expressed interest and arranged a meeting but never showed up.

“That’s not a bad thing,” Hopper said. “If they are legitimately hesitant about raping children, I want them to back out.”

The first target suspect on Tuesday did not back out. As soon as he arrive, he was arrested. During a search, officers found in his possession condoms and a bottle lubricant, Parker said.

He gave short answers.

Detectives off-site listened to the interview through a baby monitor.

After he was driven away to be booked into Sutter County Jail, detectives stayed on site and prepared for the next suspect’s arrival.

Arrested and charged

David Ignacio Chavarin, 33 of North Highlands.

Nicolas Davide Brown, 26, of Oroville.

Howard Montenegro, 44 of Sacramento.

Timothy Leroy Neher, 40 Chico.

Jeffery Michael Albo, 50, of Edmonds, Wash.

Professional baseball player observes sting

Former White Sox baseball player Adam LaRoche was present with Sutter County law enforcement officers to observe a child sex sting operation on Tuesday evening.

“After my experience overseas, I went on a quest to find out more about trafficking. That’s when I cam in contact with Operation Underground Railroad and was invited to Sutter County,” LaRoache said in statement provided to the Appeal-Democrat.

“Everyone who was present in Tuesday’s operation has an interest in protecting children,” said Sutter Coutny District Attorney Amanda Hopper, whose office coordinated the sting.

 

 

A Lullaby Story

A Lullaby Story

A lullaby has a way of helping each of us find solace amongst the thorns. Such was the case with Operation Underground Railroad’s Founder and CEO Tim Ballard.

Rescuing children from sex slavery never even entered his mind when Tim Ballard signed up with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Having previously served in the CIA, Ballard moved over to HSI soon after the attacks on the twin towers in 2001 in order to better protect America’s borders. But fate had a different plan for him.

His boss was creating a special task force to rescue children being trafficked across the boarder from San Diego, California into Mexico and Ballard was invited to be a part of the team. The idea did not exactly appeal to him. It is an ugly underworld that he didn’t want anything to do with, however, after a great deal of soul searching he agreed to help.

The first rescue involved a young brother and sister who were kidnapped and whisked across the Mexican boarder to be entertainment and play toys at a sex party. In a daring HSI undercover operation, Ballard infiltrated the party as an undercover operative and rescued them both. The siblings were then turned over to a recovery center in California.

The idea of staying with the special task force weighed heavily on Ballard’s mind after that. Should he continue rescuing children from the nightmare they find themselves in? What effect would this have on his life – on his family? Or should he continue to protect America’s borders as he had planned to do?

While contemplating the fork in the road, a song came on the radio. It was a lullaby written and sung by Peter Breinholt – and it spoke to Ballard. The lyrics talk of bad dreams and how he hopes the bad people “won’t come round here no more… and maybe you will stay here to hold on to.”

It was the turning point for Ballard. He knew what he had to do and he’s been doing it ever since.

To watch the music video click here Lullaby. To support O.U.R. download the a music track on iTunes. for .99 here.   Breinholt is graciously donating ALL proceeds to O.U.R. to help rescue children.

Lullaby Lyrics by Peter Breinholt

As I lay myself to sleep I’m awake And nobody else is here – Sometimes I wish I could fly away So they won’t come round here no more – They won’t come round here no more

Did you see the castle in the air And all the people living there Or did a bad dream call tonight – Well they won’t come round here no more

So sleep now and be still And know that There’s no fear

And maybe You’ll stay here to hold on to When things get bad – So be still And sleep now And know that There’s no more fear

And maybe You’ll stay here To hold on to – There’s one thing you should know – They won’t come round here no more

 

 

 

For Profit CrossFit for Non-Profit O.U.R.

For Profit CrossFit for Non-Profit O.U.R.

Who, in their right mind, would ask you to start a business for them that would compete against your own business? Well, that’s exactly what happened to CrossFit Franchise Owner and Coach Drew Rykert and the crazy thing is, he said yes!

“There’s no competition when it comes to the kids,” Rykert said. Of course, he’s talking about how Operation Underground Railroad rescues children from sex trafficking and enslavement.

O.U.R. is creating the FOR-profit CrossFit gym in Draper, Utah to help support the NON-profit O.U.R. administrative costs. That way more of each donation to O.U.R. can go directly to help fund missions and recovery care of victims. Many generous partners have assisted in supporting the gym as a means of consistent revenue: WODOmation, brUTE, WORKT, Bam Bams BBQ, HYLETE, Kill Cliff, and CrossFit.

O.U.R. Founder and CEO Tim Ballard along with various Jump Team members often worked out at Rykert’s CrossFit Gym, but will now have a gym of their own, and the beautiful part is anyone can come and join the gym, work out with and be trained beside our Jump Team members, and help enslaved children as well. It’s really a win/win/win situation. And don’t worry about Rykert. He’s actually managing the O.U.R. gym now as well as coaching and training others.

The Grand Opening of the O.U.R. CrossFit gym is September 11th and 12th but you can sign up right now at CROSSFITOUR.COM. You can even try it out free before signing up during the first eleven days of September.

GRAND OPENING SCHEDULE

1.September 1st through the 11th the O.U.R. CrossFit Gym will be FREE. Come and enjoy hour-long classes teaching the fundamental movements of CrossFit. Classes will be held Monday-Friday at 6am, 8:30am, 9:30am, 12pm, 5 pm and 6 pm. Saturday classes will be held at 8 and 9 am.

2. September 11th: Friday there will be a 9/11 Memorial Day WOD with O.U.R. Jump Team members, Tommy Hackenbruck and UTE CrossFit.

3.September 12th Saturday is Family Fun Fit day starting at 9 am with a two mile run with functional fitness stations. For $25 per person or $50 per family there will be Free WODs, Massages, Chiropractic Treatments, and Prizes all day until 4pm.

4. Address: 13648 S. 200 W. Draper, Utah

5. Website: CROSSFITOUR.COM

O.U.R. is supported by the CrossFit community and dedicated to rescuing children from sex trafficking. Please join the gym and help us to direct more funding toward the mission of O.U.R. You will have the opportunity to be trained by and workout along side the members of the Jump Team.

The gym includes 8,000 square feet with a 70 foot Pull Up Rig, Olympic lifting equipment and the best coaches trained and certified.

Come get in shape and support O.U.R. All proceeds of CrossFit O.U.R. aid in the rescue and recovery of child sex slaves.

 

 

 

Everything’s Changed

Everything’s Changed

Former Navy SEAL, Mark Delisle and his long time friend Hugh Vail were still standing in line at the concessions counter when the doors to the movie theater started to close. “It’s starting. I’m going in and grab our seats,” DeLisle told Vail. “Will you grab my food?”

Leaving the line, Delisle headed into the theater. “Look, when a Navy SEAL asks you to do something the answer is always yes, I mean, ‘aye, aye,’” said Hugh.

On June 15th O.U.R. showed the final private screening of the documentary The Abolitionists, the story about the enslaved children and the O.U.R. Jump Team’s exploits as they investigate and liberate these children from around the world.

Movie Screen of The Abolitionists with O.U.R. Founder Tim Ballard
Movie Screening of The Abolitionists with O.U.R. Founder Tim Ballard (center)

“I found Mark, sitting next to friends Mike Porenta and Derek McLaughlin and sat down in my seat just as the opening scene started,” recalls Hugh. “I did not have any idea what I was going to see, let alone what I was going to feel. I’m not sure you can prepare for something like that,” said Vail.

The film was produced by Jerry Molen, Chet Thomas and Darrin Fletcher; the talent behind movies such as Saving Private Ryan, Amistad and Schindler’s List, just to name a few.

When the film screening was over an indescribable feeling settled through the theater; a mixture of sadness and anger intermingled with a determination to do something to help these children. As many tried to hide their tears, Operation Underground Railroad Founder and CEO Tim Ballard asked that the producers to come down to the stage and express a few thoughts and feelings.

“That had the most impact on me. I think on all of us really, said McLaughlin. On the way home we drove with a fair amount of silence until we realized that all of us had the same experience. When Chet said they wanted ‘to help the children but knew they couldn’t go on the operations,’ they went on to say that they knew that they could make a movie that would help the children.”

 Taking Action

“I heard the feeling more in my heart than in my ears,” said Delisle’s friend Mike Porenta. “Guys, we just gotta do something. It’s too important!”

“Then let’s do it,” agreed Delisle.

“Give me a bit. I’ll figure out what we can do,” added Vail.

Rather than feeling down and depressed, these four men felt inspired and motivated. Enthusiastic to take their life’s experience from work and from home and channel it into supporting O.U.R.

“We knew that we had to do more than just buy O.U.R. T-shirts.” McLaughlin remembers.

For three weeks, these four friends thought of little else. Soon enough, Vail delivered. He had an idea to leverage his previous company into a stream of revenue that O.U.R. could count on. Slowly, the idea began to evolve.

“Derek and I needed to break away from our homes for a moment to work through some of the finer details which basically involved delivering hot chocolate made with real Dutch chocolate and real milk from Wisconsin to every doorstep in America and every break room at the office,” said Vail.

“Think about it, Vail told McLaughlin, “It’s Cocoa that Counts made with Real Milk That Really Matters.” But it was Derek, in his confident and articulate manner that said, “Even better, it’s Milk that Matters.” And the business was born.

Utilizing Vail and Porenta’s relationships in the food manufacturing business from the previous company they owned, Milk that Matters (MTM) structured a business model to donate 50% of MTM’s profits to supporting O.U.R.

Milk That Matters is helping parents and businesses support O.U.R. by supplying milk, chocolate milk, hot cocoa, spiced cider, freeze dried snacks for toddlers and other snacks into the kitchens and offices across America. In fact, they can deliver it directly to your home with a monthly subscription.

O.U.R. Founder Tim Ballard is impressed by MTM’s generosity as well as their ingenuity. “It really doesn’t cost people anything to support O.U.R. and help rescue these children because they’re going to the grocery story and buying these products already. MTM is just making it possible for them to do it. We really appreciate MTM’s help and those that are supporting them.”

The goal, as Delisle put it is, “to mobilize the O.U.R. family and provide them with excellent products and at the same time provide a steady stream of donations for O.U.R. to expand their rescue operations throughout the world.”Button MTMMTM bottle logo

When the Call Comes

Have you felt the clarion call to action to support Operation Underground Railroad? Milk that Matters has some practical advice to those who feel the need to take that avenue.

Emotionally Committed to the Mission

The first thing that has to happen is that you must have the emotional need to actively participate in O.U.R.’s mission to rescue children from sex slavery. That does not mean that you are going on missions with the Jump Teams and directly facing off with traffickers. When the call comes, when your heart hears what your ears may not yet comprehend, you will need to put yourself in a position, even if for a period of time, to get things aligned. When clarity clears away the doubts, then action will overcome procrastination.

“We can’t afford to lose,” said DeLisle. “This is literally a life and death situation for these kids.

Total commitment most easily arises when what we do is more about others than about self. “This is the secret of the SEAL Teams and is one of the great secrets of the good life,” says DeLisle. “It creates the unshakeable resolve to do whatever it takes to win because it’s not about a personal win, it’s about lifting those that have fallen, and in this case, it’s about finding the children who are lost.

McLaughlin spoke about an experience he had before his senior season where former Philadelphia Eagle Vai Sikahema came and spoke to the team. “Sikahema said that in Polynesian history, the invading armies would burn their canoes upon landing on hostile shores. The act of burning your metaphorical canoe dramatically increases your buy-in, but it’s not for the faint of heart.”

Lift Where You Stand

The path to making a difference is to take what you know and give it a higher purpose. The Milk That Matters team has experience with food suppliers and managing a small multi-million dollar business. They are not rookies trying out an idea; although the 50/50 profit sharing model is innovative, and creates heavy burdens, the model was designed to give their business the purpose of their hearts and the weight of their resolve.

The MTM team knows there are good people who want to help. “The challenge is that they usually don’t know how,” said Porenta. “If you can give them a framework and direction, people will support you as you support others.”

Look into your life and see what you are passionate about. Take that and give it a higher purpose. If you feel like there isn’t anything that comes to mind, reach out to those already involved; stand by each other’s side and lift where you stand.

Click to order Milk That Matters
Click to order Milk That Matters