Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to shine a light and eradicate the global epidemic of child sexual exploitation and slavery. Our three-fold purpose to liberate children includes rescuing, aftercare services, as well as government and law enforcement agency empowerment trainings. By aiding in the dismantling of criminal networks who hold these children in slavery, we help to eradicate the continuation and spread of the problem.
O.U.R. currently operates in North and South America, Asia and Africa. Specific countries include the United States of America, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Thailand, Uganda, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Nepal, Guatemala
To shine a light to the world on the global epidemic of slavery, and in doing so rescue children from slavery and dismantle the criminal networks holding them captive. We place rescued children in safe havens with their families or in rehabilitation programs.
After more than a decade of service as a Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security Child Crimes Unit and the Central Intelligence Agency, Timothy Ballard founded Operation Underground Railroad. The purpose was to identify and rescue frequently overlooked child victims who are outside of the U.S. government’s jurisdiction or who fall outside of currently limited resources.
Operation Underground Railroad is staffed with numerous experts with law enforcement credentials and with extensive experience in undercover child trafficking operations tactics and procedures. O.U.R. organizes rescue missions using highly trained operatives with Special Forces experience to locate, rescue, and provide placement and rehabilitation for victims, while also working with local law enforcement to prosecute offenders. In addition to organizing rescue operations and rehabilitation efforts, Ballard intended O.U.R. to be a primary source for training developing countries on how to combat child exploitation. By providing law enforcement with the intelligence, training, and resources, O.U.R.’s global impact combating child exploitation has been profound. O.U.R.’s efforts also empower countries to fight child trafficking through improved legislation and law enforcement.
O.U.R. operatives are highly trained ex-CIA, Navy Seals, Special Agents, etc. who understand how to partner with local law enforcement to conduct covert missions. Operatives infiltrate underground trafficking networks to identify traffickers and the location of children in order to carefully develop plans for their rescue. The majority of countries in the world do not have people trained to conduct operations like this, nor enforce anti-trafficking laws, which is a major reason why trafficking exists.
Tim Ballard, O.U.R. CEO and Founder, personally spent 11 years investigating child trafficking and pedophile rings in the United States. He understands the limitations of government and local law enforcement, and the social issues that perpetuate this problem.
Since O.U.R.’s founding in 2014, more than 1,013 trafficking victims have since been saved and 462 traffickers/child offenders have been arrested. O.U.R.’s efforts have spanned across the globe: Cambodia, Colombia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Peru, Thailand, Uganda, and the USA. Our rapid expansion has provided measurable impact worldwide.
O.U.R. analyzes operation effort impact yields, including relief speed to child victims. Rescue operations have been the primary focus since the organization’s inception.The internet also connects traffickers with clients, contributing to the growing market for child exploitative material. O.U.R. is working to develop better software tools to identify online offenders. O.U.R.’s work with local law enforcement has evolved as the most effective way to combat this global issue and meet organizational goals. For this reason, training has become a major focus for O.U.R.
While trafficking is a worldwide issue, there are hot spots known for the trafficking of minors for sex. Latin America and Southeast Asia in particular are saturated with trafficking rings. For this reason, O.U.R. plans to use its strong internal networks within these regions to greatly expand its rescue and rehabilitation efforts. With the knowledge and expertise to provide important trainings in law enforcement, software investigations, and rehabilitation programs, O.U.R. also wants to make these trainings available to as many areas of the world as possible.
There are many government and private institutions working to increase public awareness, lobby for stricter laws, and implement preventative measures within government programs like welfare and foster care where children are most vulnerable. Government agencies face numerous limitations in what they can and cannot pursue. Other nonprofit organizations like Polaris and the Centre to End all Sexual Exploitation are incredible at gathering research, increasing public awareness, lobbying for laws that protect children and offering rehabilitation to victims, however they do not have the skill force to actually conduct rescue missions. Other rescue-focused organizations, like International Justice Mission and Destiny’s rescue have seen great success in counter-trafficking initiatives, but O.U.R.’s expertise in providing free trainings to foreign governments on cutting edge technology that increases efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses sets it apart.
Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. About 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports 199,000 estimated incidents of sexual exploitation of minors each year in the United States alone. Human trafficking is akin to modern slavery because of its use of force, fraud, and coercion. Women and girls make up over 80% of sex trafficking victims.
Sexual predators primarily exploit children through online Internet ads. Demand for sex with minors increases dramatically during major entertainment events. States struggle to address the online trafficking of children, because of insufficient resources and training needed to address the prevalence of the problem.
Operation Underground Railroad works to eradicate child trafficking and child sexual exploitation around the world by rescuing children from sex slavery, facilitating aftercare services for survivors, and empowering governments and law enforcement agencies around the world.
Our specialized task force, consisting of former CIA, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives, collaborates with and trains international governments and law enforcement agencies step by step on the best practices for rescuing victims of child trafficking and building cases to prosecute their traffickers. By mentoring law enforcement agencies through the entire process— from investigation techniques, to gathering incriminating evidence, to executing a rescue—local authorities are empowered to more aggressively fight trafficking within their jurisdiction.
Due to the increasing role the Internet plays in exploiting children, we believe one of the most effective ways to combat human trafficking is to increase the ability of governments and law enforcement to track the online activity of child predators and leverage these investigations to locate victims and prosecute offenders. We facilitate a free multi-phase training program on cyber investigation techniques and offer software designed to assist in digital forensic investigations, specifically relating to child exploitative material (a.k.a. child pornography).
Since the United States already has well-established law enforcement structures and aftercare programs, we provide support and resources to agencies that seek assistance. We facilitate trainings and provide cutting edge technology and investigative tools to Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces and local police agencies to bolster law enforcement’s ability to address trafficking and exploitation. For example, we’ve arranged for and sponsored pedophile sting operations, software tools to improve digital forensic investigations, canines trained in finding external hard drives, and mobile forensic lab units.
Our aftercare model is designed to provide opportunities for survivors to heal from their abuse through trauma-informed services, and become empowered through education and vocational training. We believe that education is critical to promoting access to employment and essential to bridging the gap between institutionalized care and independent living.
We work diligently to develop strong relationships with locally run aftercare facilities that demonstrate the capacity to meet our standards for care, and never authorize a rescue operation unless safe housing for each rescued victim can be provided. Our partnerships are founded on the belief that as we empower our aftercare partners, they will, in turn, be able to empower each survivor. Survivors frequently express an interest in learning skills in hair and beauty, sewing, gardening, computers, English, driving skills, hospitality, and some aspire to attend university. We work directly with aftercare partners to provide the resources to help survivors achieve these dreams.
We frequently outfit aftercare partners with computer labs, gardens, sewing machines, and other equipment to further vocational training opportunities for survivors. We also help cover salaries for onsite therapists and other needed professionals.
Having informed communities is essential to combat human trafficking. To help educate the public, we created a free web-based signs of trafficking course. With a focus on trafficking within the United States, this training teaches people how to identify instances of trafficking, what to do, and most importantly, how to prevent sex trafficking within their communities.