Human trafficking is a large-scale problem that requires large-scale solutions. Operation Underground Railroad implements bold approaches across the spectrum of the fight against human trafficking, including a sustainable, ethical rescue model of direct intervention to bring freedom to victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
At O.U.R., we understand that long-term societal change in behaviors and mentality about the purchase of commercial sex is the key to ending human trafficking for good, and that is why we devote significant resources to prevention and education. We also believe there is a time and place for rescue operations of current victims of human trafficking, especially when it comes to children.
We do not stand for the trafficking of children and will do all we can to stop exploitation in its tracks.
It is important to note that O.U.R. does not conduct or participate directly in investigations, operations or enforcement action in the United States. This critical work is conducted by brave and trained individuals in law enforcement. O.U.R. supports U.S. state and local authorities by providing funding, scholarships for capacity-building training, specialized tools and cutting edge technology as requested and appropriate.
Internationally, we assist law enforcement agencies by developing intelligence, cultivating sources of information and infiltrating criminal human trafficking networks. These efforts occur always at the request of the host government and under appropriate laws and procedures, with the goal of identifying criminal leadership and methods of operation. Through extensive undercover work and intelligence gathering, we strive to identify as many victims of human trafficking as possible.
We spend weeks, months and sometimes years gathering evidence from undercover agents, informants and other sources. The O.U.R. Operations Team never goes into a rescue operation blindly, but only after we have determined with certainty that there are victims and that a rescue operation is the best option for the situation.
Through direct intervention we create a deterrent effect that reverberates through the black market of human trafficking, slowing or halting the illicit activities in the immediate area and perhaps more widely in the surrounding region. Probably my #1 personal “why” is because we restore life and hope to individuals who are lost, feel trapped, and forsaken. I know this because they have told us so after they were rescued! - O.U.R. Operator
Good intelligence and planning enables us to keep our team, members of local law enforcement and survivors safe. We strive to separate survivors from the abusers as soon as possible. Interviews are then conducted and aftercare is immediately provided. An aftercare infrastructure is always in place before we enter an operation to ensure needs for food, shelter and other necessities are met. No operation will happen until we know proper aftercare is in place.
The O.U.R. Operations Team consists of highly experienced and extensively trained personnel with a background in law enforcement, military and/or intelligence work. Since our group is privately run, we are able to quickly respond to foreign government requests and institute investigative measures, develop intelligence and assist in enforcement operations and rescue efforts.
To fight a terrible evil like human trafficking, we need to tackle it from every angle. I believe we need awareness campaigns, prevention efforts like legislation and education, and strong aftercare to help survivors heal. I also know intervention efforts are key. We can’t rescue all 40 million slaves around the world, but we can rescue a few and to intervene and rescue and remove even one from a life in hell is absolutely worth it. No question about it. - O.U.R. Operator
As many of our operators have decades of experience in high-risk enforcement and tactical operations, we routinely assist our foreign partners with the planning and execution of enforcement operations and rescue efforts. Subsequently, we assist in criminal proceedings as necessary and appropriate.
Our goal is to develop long-term relationships with foreign governments and their law enforcement agencies responsible for combatting human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. We only conduct missions or execute warrants in countries where we have a long-term presence, including engaging in street outreach and offering in-country aftercare.
We utilize the same rescue model as law enforcement. O.U.R. Founder and President Tim Ballard learned these proven tactics during his time with the U.S. Government and incorporated them into our efforts to rescue victims of human trafficking. Other anti-trafficking groups implement similar methods.
While the "academics" are correct in that we do need to provide economic opportunities and education to stop human trafficking at the root, they are wrong in the thinking that this is the ONLY way. To be successful in any campaign you must use multiple lines of effort. While books, conferences and events are great at raising awareness, it does not help the innocent victims who are being abused, raped and murdered each and every day. The mindset I have as a retired Green Beret is "no one is left behind" and operating within the laws and processes of the host countries I will not leave these women and children behind.
- O.U.R. Operator, former Green Beret, now leading O.U.R. operation efforts in the Caribbean
We are confident that our model is sustainable because it is survivor-centered. When children are rescued, we ensure they receive immediate care. We respect the choices of adults and offer resources only if and when they are ready.
The fight against trafficking requires a multi-faceted approach, and we are grateful for organizations that focus on addressing the root causes of trafficking and reducing demand. Our efforts are collaborative, bringing agencies and systems together to ensure every role in the rescue and recovery process is filled, including:
At O.U.R., we respect the survivor’s timeline for healing. Not all survivors of human trafficking identify with the label “survivor” or want to become advocates.
When appropriate, we often help facilitate connecting survivors with trained trauma-informed counselors and other medical professionals. Many individuals who have been trafficked deal with long-term physical ramifications such as sexually transmitted infections, multiple pregnancies or forced abortions.
We also strive to help survivors overcome challenges associated with reintegrating back into society. For example, we help provide support such as community integration activities or classes for life skills. Another example is some survivors have been photographed or filmed by their traffickers. These images are difficult to have removed from the internet, and survivors can face difficulties when recognized online by people in their communities. O.U.R. has helped many survivors with removing their images online.
Direct intervention rescue operations are a common and successful method for protecting children from further exploitation.
We are grateful for the hard work of our operations team, law enforcement agencies and other anti-trafficking groups who participate in these efforts. There are thousands of children yet to be rescued, and we appreciate your support that enables us to expand our rescue operations worldwide.