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.”