Human trafficking generates $32 billion a year off the backs of more than 27 million people—and nearly two million of them are children. Former CIA and Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard is on a global crusade to save each and every child, and bankrupt the entire trafficking system.
To help fortify the international sting operations conducted by his organization Operation Underground Railroad, Ballard teamed up with Oscar-winning producer Gerald Molen (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List) for the recent theatrical release of The Abolitionists. The documentary chronicles the stories of children lost, and the O.U.R. team’s exploits as they infiltrate and liberate enslaved children around the world.
TheSource.com: Why did you leave the CIA and Homeland Security to fight child trafficking on your own?
Tim Ballard: After working undercover for 12 years infiltrating the dark world of child sex trafficking, I learned how real the problem is. It’s one thing to see the statistics, but it’s another thing when you actually see the kids. So I left because I wanted to be that outside source I didn’t have as an agent to support me in my investigations.
What countries has your organization O.U.R. targeted for sex tourism so far, and how effective have you been in those countries?
We’ve been in close to 15 countries. Sex trafficking is everywhere, including here in the U.S. We’ve been very effective everywhere we’ve gone because we cater our approach based on the needs, culture and crime in each country. In the U.S., for example, we train agents on how to use computer software and the internet to track down traffickers. In other countries like Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Haiti, the traffickers are right on the streets with the kids. So we can engage them physically and save the kids.
O.U.R.-led joint sting operation with Haiti’s Brigade for the Protection of Minors police unit nabs triffickers.
What’s the average age of those exploited in child trafficking?
The average age that we’re seeing these kids get into this initially is about 11 to 13. But there are also kids as young as five years old, and grown men and women as well.
Specifically, which countries is O.U.R. targeting?
We’re targeting everywhere because it’s happening everywhere.
Ballard consoles a Haitian child after rescuing him.
How did you partner with Hollywood bigwig Gerald Molen for a documentary about child sex trafficking?
Jerry Molen actually came to us. He told us that he always wanted to have a “re-do” for Schindler’s List, even though that film was really his crowning moment. But the redo he was talking about was, when he made Schindler’s he regretted the fact he couldn’t make it in 1941, when they could’ve used the film to actually rescue lives. So by making The Abolitionists, he had an opportunity to make a film while there’s still time to rescue the kids.
What do you hope to accomplish in your mission for O.U.R. by releasing The Abolitionists?
We believe that this problem is so big that not just one country, or one agency, but everyone needs to get involved. There are over two million little kids—and the number is growing everyday—who are stuck in sex slavery. This requires a massive approach: supporting agencies, passing legislative laws, even people writing about it on their Facebook pages. Whatever your talent or contribution is, we’re asking everyone to help us.