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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

August 18, 2020

With signs reading “End human trafficking” and “Children are not for sale,” hundreds of marchers gathered at Del Mar Highlands for an Operation Underground Railroad rally on July 30.

“Operation Underground Railroad was founded in 2013 to help bring awareness and shine a light on human sex trafficking,” said Carmel Valley resident Rebecca Klein, who has been involved with the group for several months.

Operation Underground Railroad rescues children all over the world, and recently hit a new milestone.

“We just had our 4,000th rescue this past week,” Klein said. “Four-thousand kids so far have been rescued as a result of Operation Underground Railroad.”

The organization posted on Twitter that it would release more details “as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Klein added that the group is worried about children spending more time at home because of coronavirus-related public health restrictions.

“Kids are now locked at home, and they’re on their devices and computers, and predators know this,” she said. “They’re really seeking them out.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has seen a 90% increase in reports to its CyberTipline, which fields tips about suspected online exploitation of children, over the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2019.

The center has received reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a factor in almost 300 missing child cases, according to the center’s website.

Marchers walked from Del Mar Highlands to the Interstate 5 entrance and back. The march was followed by a livestream that featured Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad and former special agent for the Department of Homeland Security, where he worked on a task force that addressed internet crimes against children. Violinist Lindsey Stirling and self-help guru Tony Robbins were also on the livestream.

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