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Media coverage about Operation Underground Railroad

Tim Ballard Speaks at Summit in Imperial County, Hot Spot for Human Trafficking

Tim Ballard Speaks at Summit in Imperial County, Hot Spot for Human Trafficking

Tim Ballard, founder and C.E.O. of O.U.R., presented at the Second Annual Human Trafficking and Commercial Exploitation of Children Summit in El Centro, Imperial County, California on Wednesday.

“Thousands are smuggled through these ports of entry every year,” Tim says. “The fastest growing criminal enterprise on the planet, [which is] rivaling drugs at this point, is human trafficking.” Sgt. Justin Bostic of I.C. Sheriff’s Office says Imperial County is a major “corridor” to the Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside areas.

The summit provided a platform for presenters to show local leaders how to detect subtle cues to identify and assist victims of trafficking. Schools plan to help educate students on modern day slavery, and parents are encouraged to talk to their children about online predators and internet safety.

Tim will work with local authorities in training officers, uniting in the fight against human trafficking. We are grateful for every chance O.U.R. has to collaborate with our local communities to protect more children on the home front.

Read the news article at kyma.com


What can YOU Do?

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If you see something suspicious, report to your local authorities.

“It could save somebody’s life.” – Tim Ballard

Want to see more collaboration with O.U.R. and local law enforcement?  SHARE this article to spread the word.


Ivanka Trump Hosts Anti-Human Trafficking Roundtable Discussion At White House

Ivanka Trump Hosts Anti-Human Trafficking Roundtable Discussion At White House

Despite the political controversy that has ensued since the latest presidential election, Ivanka Trump hosted an anti-human trafficking meeting in the White House last week. She also organized a listening session in February, and was in attendance with President Donald Trump, her father.

The Purpose of the Meeting

“We have been conducting interagency meetings to understand the scope of the issue (of human trafficking), as well as gathering recommendations from the academic, public and private sector,” Ivanka Trump explained. “Today, we bring an additional and critical group to the table, legislative leaders, to discuss concrete steps through legislation.”

According to CNN, Ivanka Trump met with bipartisan, bicameral lawmakers.  This included House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Heidi Heitkamp, and various anti-human trafficking experts. Klobuchar, Corker, and Heitkamp each have experience in combating human trafficking in the Senate.

Combating Trafficking and Child Protection Week

Ivanka Trump further declared this week to be “Combating Trafficking and Child Protection Week” in Congress. She expects nine pieces of legislation that will deal with human trafficking directly.

For the original article, visit cnn.com (Image source: wikimedia commons)

Please note: Operation Underground Railroad remains nonpartisan with no political affiliations or bias, but will acknowledge all efforts made, especially by those of influence, in fighting human trafficking.

Dignity Health Will Help Healthcare Organizations Identify Victims of Human Trafficking

Dignity Health Will Help Healthcare Organizations Identify Victims of Human Trafficking

By Steven Ross Johnson  | May 16, 2017 | modernhealthcare.com

San Francisco-based Dignity Health unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday for healthcare organizations to identify and respond to patients suspected of being human trafficking victims.

As human trafficking incidents including prostitution and forced labor continue to rise, the healthcare industry offers a unique opportunity for human trafficking victims to seek help, as they are usually kept hidden as part of their captivity. Dignity Health spent the last three years developing its own human trafficking response program and is sharing the lessons it learned with other providers.

“Being in healthcare I think offers a unique opportunity to connect with a person and to potentially view for red flags that are observable,” said Holly Gibbs, director of human trafficking response at Dignity Health. “It can provide a setting where there’s more trust between a patient and a provider, and so you may be able to ask certain questions without the threat of authorities getting involved.”

Nearly 60% of healthcare professionals have never received training to identify human trafficking victims, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Dignity’s recommendation includes encouraging healthcare professionals to focus particularly on assessing patients in vulnerable populations—such as children, undocumented immigrants, the homeless and those with substance abuse or behavioral health disorders.

Reported incidents of human trafficking—whether it’s in the form of prostitution or forced labor—have increased in recent years. In 2016 the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported more than 7,500 cases of human trafficking in the U.S., a 35% increase over the 5,544 cases reported in 2015 and a 130% rise compared to the number reported in 2012.

“It’s just not something really on doctors’ radar,” said Jacqueline Bhabha, a professor at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

If patients show fearful or submissive behavior, physical signs of abuse or have a controlling companion with them, those may be indicators they are a human trafficking victim.

Read the rest of the story at modernhealthcare.com (photo source: gettyimages.com)


What can YOU Do?

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If you ever witness a situation suspicious of human trafficking,

please call the human trafficking hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888

Global Child Porn Investigation Leads to Rescue of 296 Children and 900 Arrests

Global Child Porn Investigation Leads to Rescue of 296 Children and 900 Arrests

Steven W. Chase, the creator and admin of what may have been the largest child pornography website worldwide, has received a 30-year prison sentence.

His website ‘Playpen’ ran on the Tor network, a platform that caters to anonymous communication and criminal activity through “hidden service” websites. Members could upload and go through tens of thousands of child pornography media, all sorted by their age, gender, and sexual activity. Chase started the site in 2014 and had more than 150,000 users globally.

“We were only able to pull it off with a lot of support from our international partners and field offices,” said Special Agent Dan Alfin. He investigated the case as part of the Bureau’s Violent Crimes Against Children section.

Although the case for the FBI opened just after Playpen went live in 2014, “given the nature of how hidden services work, there was not much we could do about it [at the beginning]” Alfin recalled.

However, the situation took a turn in December 2014 when Chase himself accidentally revealed Playpen’s IP address. The address displayed a U.S. location, drawing the attention of a foreign law enforcement agency, and prompting them to involve the FBI.

“From that point we took normal investigative steps—seized a copy of the website, served search warrants for e-mail accounts, followed the money—and everything led back to Steven Chase,” said Alfin.

Chase received his sentence in North Carolina for his involvement in child exploitation and pornography. He wasn’t alone of course. His two co-defendants- Michael Fluckiger, 46, of Indiana, and David Browning, 47, of Kentucky, both admins for the website, received 20-year prison sentences this year. These were only the admins of Playpen- more needed to be done.

Operation Pacifier commenced through the partnership with the FBI and the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section in January of 2015. Agents found IP addresses along with over a thousand national leads, which the FBI received. Partners overseas received thousands more, explained Alfin.

Europol, (the European Union’s law enforcement cooperation agency​), Israel, Turkey, Peru, Malaysia, Chile, and Ukraine all reported arrests. Other participating international agencies include CNCPO Polizia Postale e Comunicazioni of Italian State Police​, the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, and New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs.

“Members of his enterprise who were raping children, who were producing child pornography all around the world—those cases continue to be indicted and prosecuted,” Alfin says.

According to the FBI, the website has been taken down, and as of May 4, 2017, this investigation has produced the following:

  • At least 350 U.S.-based individuals arrested
  • 25 producers of child pornography prosecuted
  • 51 hands-on abusers prosecuted
  • 55 American children successfully identified or rescued
  • 548 international arrests, with 296 sexually abused children identified or rescued.
  • there have been 900 arrested, and 296 children rescued.

Although Playpen has been gone for two years now, there is an unfortunate number of other websites continuing to exploit and abuse children.

“It’s ongoing and we continue to address the threat to the best of our abilities,” said Alfin. “It’s the same with any criminal violation: As they get smarter, we adapt, we find them. It’s a cat-and-mouse game, except it’s not a game. Kids are being abused, and it’s our job to stop that.”

Visit fbi.gov for the full news report.


 

What can YOU Do?

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If you ever witness an incident involving child pornography, file a report on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s website at www.cybertipline.com , or call 1-800-843-5678.


Blake Lively Speaks Out Against Child Pornography

Blake Lively Speaks Out Against Child Pornography

It isn’t very often that a Hollywood star speaks out about the realities of child pornography during an awards ceremony. Blake Lively did just that for a surprising eight minutes during Variety’s Power of Women: New York on Friday.  As an honoree, she spoke in support of Child Rescue Coalition, which finds and exposes IP addresses of producers and viewers of online child exploitation.

She touches on her experience when a law enforcement officer gave her the devastating details.

“I was afraid to ask as a mother, you know, because it would be painful to hear, and I felt like I had to ask though, and I feel like I have to share it with you guys now. It is disturbing and I want to warn you, but I feel that it is my responsibility to tell you guys because it is the truth and I believe that if we all knew this, we would dedicate much more of ourselves to stopping it.”

“It isn’t happening rarely, it’s not happening worlds away, it’s happening here and right now.”

Here are some of the hard facts she mentions:

There are 30-50 million files traded on the net per day.

Only 10% of children speak up when abused.

The average abuser abuses between 50 and 100 children in their lifetime.

Lively raises a call to action, hoping big names can work to expose this industry together.

We commend Child Rescue Coalition for their influential role in assisting law enforcement to expose this evil, and we admire Blake Lively for using her voice to help more people understand what can and needs to be done to stop it.


What can YOU Do?

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Because of technology today, child exploitation unfortunately has no boundaries. What will we do to stop it?

We hope this woman’s speech inspired you as much as it inspired us. SHARE this story.

 

Human Trafficking In Plain Sight: Are You Unknowingly Supporting It?

Human Trafficking In Plain Sight: Are You Unknowingly Supporting It?

(Image from fresnoeoc.org)

Human trafficking is a worldwide problem, and it’s growing. There are an estimated 45.8 million people who are enslaved today. However, this crisis is not distant. We as Americans unfortunately interact with and often even support this epidemic every day without knowing.

According to former assistant district attorney of New York City, Barry Koch, the these victims are everywhere and hidden in plain sight. With drug dealing taking first, human trafficking and arms dealing tie for second as the largest criminal industries in the world. Yet human trafficking is experiencing the most rapid growth.

The facts:

  • Over 14 million are forced into labor.
  • According to the International Labour Organization, forced labor generated $150 billion in 2015.
  • Construction, manufacturing and mining compose over half of the human trafficking labor force.
  • 4 million of those trafficked are female; 9.5 million are male.
  • Refugees especially are at risk.
  • 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.

The U.S. State Department explains, “The old way of slavery was that the boss really owned you… But now legal recruiters and employers work in tandem to deceive workers who, vulnerable and isolated in a strange culture, are forced to accept harsh terms. It is in that context that you have endemic forced labor today.” Human trafficking knows no race, religion, culture, age, or sex. Everyone needs to be made aware.

According to Dr. Annalisa Enrile, clinical associate professor of USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, says, “When we talk about trafficking, most people assume we are just talking about sex. But there are actually more people enslaved through labor trafficking. Millions more. Impoverished communities, migrant workers and children are all at risk.”

According to the Urban Institute’s 2014 report, Hidden in Plain Sight, 71% of the labor trafficking victims (in the study) came to the U.S. legally with working visas. These are the most common industries where forced labor occurs:

  • agriculture
  • fishing
  • construction
  • factory work
  • domestic servitude

These victims are often separated from others with no documentation, keeping them under the radar. A San Diego State University study found that in San Diego County, 31% of undocumented, Spanish-speaking migrant workers had experienced labor trafficking. How do we find the perpetrators? Possibly the best way to find out is to follow the money. There are individual people, organizations, businesses, and even governments that thrive off of human trafficking.

According to Koch, “We can make a difference in the fight against labor trafficking and labor exploitation by passing laws (and monitoring for compliance) that regulate supply chains. Consumers can refuse to purchase goods from retailers who use trafficked labor or child labor in their supply chains. Institutional investors can divest their positions in such companies.”

For the full article, visit forbes.com

 


What can YOU Do?

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As consumers, it takes conscious effort to buy fair trade items,
or items not made under harsh labor conditions. 
Check out some helpful apps here to help fight the demand for human trafficking.
 
Sen. Hatch Joins The Fight to Help Prevent, Rescue & Heal Trafficking Victims

Sen. Hatch Joins The Fight to Help Prevent, Rescue & Heal Trafficking Victims

(Image: Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune)

On Wednesday, Senator Orrin Hatch joined Tim Ballard, founder of O.U.R., at Younique Foundation Headquarters in Lehi, Utah, to discuss prevention against child sex trafficking. Joining them was Chris Yadon, founder of Younique Foundation, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. Together they will be working to empower and expand law enforcement tools.

Ballard provided an update to when he testified and helped pass the International Megan’s Law (HR515), in May 2015 to limit sex crimes domestically and internationally. Regarding the passing of the law, he stated, “[it] is such an important bill that has passed, but it has not been implemented or funded yet which is why we are making it a priority. It’s sole purpose is to protect children from being exploited.”

“This is really an epidemic that is totally wrong,” Hatch said. “Of all the criminal activity I’ve seen in my years in the United States Senate and before as an attorney, I’ve never seen anything more despicable, more rotten or dirty or terrible than child sex trafficking.”

Operation Underground Railroad has conducted 76 rescue operations since its founding in 2014, with over 650 victims rescued and 270 traffickers arrested. “Our problem is their problem. Their problem is our problem. It’s an international problem,” Ballard said.

Upon viewing O.U.R.’s documentary The Abolitionists last year, Hatch said, “O.U.R. is a powerful force for good in the fight against child sex trafficking. Across the world, the organization has liberated hundreds of children from the hell they were lured into by evil and designing men. As you will see, Tim is at the forefront of O.U.R.’s mission, leading sting operations in countries and continents across the globe. He is a hero in every sense of the word. I wish to thank Tim for his courage, his service, and his sacrifice.”

This partnership stands as a reminder to all, that it is necessary for a diverse influence of forces to unite in order to rescue the millions of exploited children from the darkness. The union of hearts and minds from varied parts of the political and private spectrums carves the way to eliminate the odds. The harsh reality is that victims will not be saved without the light from the neighbor or the legislator, the donor or the rescuer; resources and strengths that a private sector cannot accomplish alone.

“There is much darkness in this world as we all know. Tim and his team see this every day,” Hatch said. “Today, our focus is not on darkness, but on light. Our focus is on the great work these organizations are doing to help others overcome the darkness and reclaim hope.”

 


What can YOU Do?

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Unity is necessary to end human trafficking.
Inspire others to come together by sharing this story. 
WHAT DOES O.U.R. DO IN UTAH?

WHAT DOES O.U.R. DO IN UTAH?

Here is what Operation Underground Railroad has been up to on the home front in 2017.

FREE AT LAST EVENT

On January 17, O.U.R. Volunteers gathered at the Crossfit O.U.R. gym to organize hundreds of hygiene kits and care packages for our Aftercare program to deliver to survivors. Children’s toys, soccer balls, granola bars, and toiletry items were donated.

 

VALENTINE’S DINNER

 Thanks to doTERRA, The Rock Church, Missio Dei, and the nearly 300 incredible volunteers, we were able to hand out 93 bags of hope, blankets, and Valentine’s Day cards to incredible women from The Road Home shelter in Salt Lake City. The event was held at Caputo’s Market & Deli in downtown with The Rock Church. Many of these women, who have been through so much, came up to our team with tears in their eyes saying, “This has truly been a magical night. Thank you for making us feel valuable and beautiful!”

O.U.R. Aftercare also has plans to support Red Light Outreach which ministers to girls in this very area.

 

ST. GEORGE TRAINING

In January 2017, St. George Police Department reached out to O.U.R. for assistance with an investigation targeting numerous massage parlors suspected of using trafficked foreign nationals to provide illegal services to customers. O.U.R. partnered with SGPD providing resources and assistance with translation services for the foreign national victims and witnesses. The successful collaboration showed how SGPD and O.U.R. could set the standard for such public-private partnerships. 

This is a sample of the kind of operation O.U.R. assisted with.

(photos from TheSpectrum.com)

O.U.R. is so grateful for our many supporters inside the state of Utah and throughout the rest of the world who help us further our mission to rescue children from slavery and assist law enforcement in the prosecution of trafficking offenders.


 

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To stay informed on O.U.R. updates, text “UPDATES” to 51555.

Spread the word of the good that O.U.R. and volunteers are involved in.  SHARE this article.

CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING RESCUE GROUP COMPLETES SUCCESSFUL OPERATION IN HAITI, SAVING 29 GIRLS

CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING RESCUE GROUP COMPLETES SUCCESSFUL OPERATION IN HAITI, SAVING 29 GIRLS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FEBRUARY 21, 2017 

* * MEDIA ADVISORY * *

CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING RESCUE GROUP COMPLETES SUCCESSFUL OPERATION IN HAITI, SAVING 29 GIRLS

Operation Underground Railroad partnered with Haiti’s Minor Protection Brigade in undercover sting, arresting 9 traffickers 

WASHINGTON, D.C.–  Today, Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) announced that the group, partnering with Haiti’s Minor Protection Brigade (BPM) and Haitian authorities, has successfully completed Operation Sainte Jou (Holy Day), an undercover rescue mission that resulted in the arrest of 9 traffickers and rescue of 29 girls suspected to be sex trafficking victims. O.U.R. went to Haiti at the invitation of BPM and acted under legal authority of the Haitian government. O.U.R. spent two months, alongside Haitian officials, developing this investigation, meeting with the traffickers,  and setting up the operation to ensure the safety of the victims and jump team. 

“This counts as one of our most successful operations to date. More than two dozen girls are now liberated, and with our continued support, do not have to return to a life where they are victims of the most depraved and evil in society. We hope to continue partnering with Haitian authorities to share and learn new investigation techniques and technology to ensure that pedophiles who prey upon the young have no place visiting Haiti. We are impressed with the Haitian government’s desire to do the right thing. O.U.R. remains committed to doing all it can to empower law enforcement in the U.S. and around the world to fight horrendous crimes of child exploitation and trafficking, ”said Founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad Tim Ballard.  

O.U.R. has built a rehabilitation groundwork with the government and local partners to ensure victims can return to their parents where possible or into vetted safe houses where not. The local aftercare experts met with the girls directly after the operation and were able to meet with many of their parents to provide them with anti-human trafficking awareness and sensitivity training. O.U.R.’s work continues around the world. Since it was founded in 2013, Operation Underground Railroad has rescued 641 victims and arrested 273 traffickers. 

About Operation Underground Railroad: O.U.R. is a non-profit organization that rescues children from slavery. O.U.R. rescue teams are comprised of highly skilled ex-Navy SEALs, Special Forces, CIA and other operatives. O.U.R.’s work has gained international media coverage  on CBS Evening NewsABC Nightly News,  Fox News Sunday, PBS Religion and EthicsThe Washington PostThe New York Postand The Blaze among others. 

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This man helped free 29 women and children from sex trafficking

This man helped free 29 women and children from sex trafficking

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Ex-CIA analyst Tim Ballard is now a sex-trade investigator — and he just cracked a major ring in Haiti that liberated 29 young women and children.  170220-tim-ballard-feature

It was all in a day’s work for Ballard, who teams with a nonprofit called Operation Underground Railroad, made up of former members of the US military who use their know-how to battle child-trafficking and sex slavery in countries where the practices are common.

The Haiti operation, called Sainte Jou — Creole for Blessed Day — led to the arrest of nine suspected sex traffickers on Feb. 5, Super Bowl Sunday, by local authorities, who worked in tandem with the US organization.

“We are not a rogue agency, we are not vigilantes,” said Matt Osborn, a CIA and State Department veteran, who helps Ballard direct the group’s operations.

They target locales notorious for sex trafficking and then set up complex sting operations to nab the pimps and free the young women and girls.

In Haiti, a sting was set up at the Kaliko Beach Club, a high-end resort on the west side of the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

On Feb. 3 and 4 — as Americans were preparing their Super Bowl parties — Osborn said a team of 25 men began flying in to “play the role of middlemen for wealthy American pedophiles.” They organized with the pimps to line up local girls — some as young as 13 — for an orgy.

“The average price we were going to have to pay was $300 for each girl, for what was billed as a sex party of four to six hours,” Osborn said.

By Sunday, a yacht moored off-shore was made to look like a wealthy party boat down from Florida for the weekend.

Most of the undercovers were wearing flip-flops and shorts and playing ball on the beach to give off a party vibe.

Ballard, who worked for the Department of Homeland Security as a special agent, met face-to-face with the pimps and recorded the details of the deal to hand over to Haitian authorities, who swooped in to break up the sex ring.

The US State Department said Haiti only passed legislation criminalizing sex trafficking in 2014.


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Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise.  It is a $32 BILLION industry.
It needs to stop and together we can make that happen!