Julia Ormond comes to the Westin, talks about human trafficking

Julia Ormond.
Most Hollywood stars could safely say they’re against modern slavery and might even pose for a protest picture about it. But you’d be hard-pressed to find one who could spell “trafficking.” Luckily, Julia Ormond is not your average movie star.

As founder and president of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, she’s traveled the world talking to Cambodian girls forced into prostitution and border guards ignorant of the human commodities smuggled across their paths. Today she graced Denver with her presence, speaking to a roomful of private investigators at the 83rd annual World Association of Detectives conference at the Westin Tabor Center.

While the cops munched on scrambled eggs and watermelon, Ormond discussed how the price of a human life has actually dropped in the last few centuries—from $40,000 per person at the height of the American slave trade to $300 per person today. At such bargain prices, slaves have become even more invisible and disposable. “This is an economic crime. It’s driven like a business,” she said.

Ormond said cops need to be better educated about how to identify trafficking victims -- instead of just considering them prostitutes or illegal aliens -- and should use more sophisticated methods to track smuggling rings around the world. She also emphasized the connection between drug crimes, human trafficking and terrorism, pointing out that child soldiers in say, Afghanistan, pose a serious threat to our future.

“We’re letting the criminals go,” she said. “None of us want to own this issue.”

For a celebrity, it was pretty heavy brunch conversation. But Ormond seemed perfectly at ease. At the end of her speech, when the detectives presented her with a plaque for her efforts, she accepted it with a smile: “My siblings would be howling with laughter if they knew the police had given me a reward,” she said. — Lisa Rab

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner