Research Projects

Airport Contributions to the Study, Investigation, and Interdiction of Human Trafficking In Reserve

Define evidence-based, practical tools for airports interested in supporting anti-human trafficking efforts, through a project that complements and keep step with efforts at the USDOT and FAA, as well as those of a Congressionally-directed Federal Advisory Committee and its recommendation, due out July 3, 2019.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. Human traffickers in the United States utilize local, state, and national infrastructure and systems – including all types of airports - to exploit men, women, and children for forced labor and/or sex commerce.
Human trafficking is often termed modern-day slavery, with victims suffering physical, economic, and social harms. Its victims often appear complicit, refusing to identify themselves or otherwise assist law enforcement. It is distinguished from smuggling, wherein the person smuggled consents to that activity. To society, the negative aspects of human trafficking include health threats, e.g. epidemics, and illegal activities funded by human trafficking, such as terrorism and racketeering. Unlike the illicit drug trade, the "commodity" involved in human trafficking can be used again and again, making for a lucrative, multi-billion dollar crime. Internationally, human trafficking has been viewed not only as a law enforcement concern but as a sustainability issue, e.g. as Target 8.7 among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Research shows that there is limited insight and understanding of human trafficking networks, and this lack of information impedes investigation, interdiction, and decision support related to human trafficking by law enforcement agencies. In particular, traffickers operate clandestine networks and victims of trafficking, as noted, do not self-identify. Also, according to members of the anti-human trafficking community, while several airlines may have trained their flight personnel, airports will have varied ways (landside) of addressing reports of suspected instances human trafficking.
Close coordination with law enforcement is important in addressing security in the transportation system in an appropriate and effective manner. Aviation sector contributions are needed to support the enforcement of human trafficking laws; help victims (e.g. seeking to connect them to services, as at Denver International Airport); and improved decision support for policy, operations, etc. Airport personnel can take several actions to gain awareness and supply information for anti-human trafficking efforts. These actions include knowing the signs of human trafficking; collecting actionable information; utilizing human trafficking hot line(s); cooperating with requests from law enforcement for timely and actionable information; and strategic investment in and use of technologies.
In recent years, human trafficking investigation and interdiction by the Department of Justice and others has increased in response to directives from the highest levels of the US government. The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Department of Homeland Security (including TSA) have collaborated on outreach and engagement with transportation industry leaders and their workers. FAA has instituted mandatory training on the topic; and USDOT created an interactive, web-based "workplace" that is available anywhere with training materials and response protocols relating to human trafficking.
The Congressionally-directed USDOT Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking (ACHT) is developing draft recommendations in Spring 2019, and final recommendations will be submitted to the USDOT Secretary on July 3, 2019. The USDOT Secretary, in turn, is to submit recommendations to Congress in January 2020. Current TRB research on human trafficking (NCHRP 20-121) is complementing this Federal effort, in timing and some technical aspects, but it will not directly address the role(s) of airports.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

An ACRP research project can focus on the role of airports and the resources it controls, developing a work product that can explain the human trafficking issue for airport personnel who may be on the front lines of criminal activity. At a strategic level, human trafficking was a topic that received a positive reception at a Spring 2018 ACRP Insight Event. There also has been interest in the ACRP IdeaHub community, in that three airport personnel provided unsolicited votes to an idea on this topic, after it had been moved by ACRP to the synthesis channel (Idea No. 106). Twelve TRB committees were briefed on human trafficking at the 2019 TRB Annual Meeting, including AV090 – Standing Committee on Aviation Security and Emergency Management by the NCHRP 20-121 Principal Investigator and USDOT.
Given the high level of activity across government, NGOs, and the private sector, it may be useful to fold some form of a synthesis into an applied research approach, for a single project. Such an approach could help determine ACRP's desired scoping of the problem, e.g. having an international reach v. starting with the still very significant national and regional human trafficking circuits that pass through US airports.
Research subjects and sources on the state of practice could include the many sizes and types of airports that are conduits for this crime and therefore entry points for labor and sex trafficking interdiction. It would be helpful for any ACRP project on this topic to liaise at some level with an interested group of victim/survivors, e.g. possibly the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, to ensure tools are relevant and useful from the perspective of that community of interest.
A key task is to examine current practices that could support airport managers' review of the human trafficking issue and their appropriate level of action, based on size, location, capabilities of local partners, etc. Areas of focus would be (1) the identification of the role(s) of airports in supporting (a) law enforcement (local, the FBI, DHS, etc) that seek traffickers and (b) those programs that seek to help victim/survivors, manage the multiple forms of reporting on this crime, and also interact with law enforcement (e.g. Polaris and other entities), (2) a review of policies, practices, etc., and (3) assessment and/or development of tools for implementing strategic and tactical approaches.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

$300,000. Desk top research, brief survey, interviews, case examples supporting a general synthesis of practice ($75,000), focused attention/technical memorandum on reporting suspected instances of human trafficking as it relates to airlines, airports, law enforcement, the victim services infrastructure already in place ($75,000) development of models and tools for different airport types (general aviation, regional, international) ($150,000)

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

Department of Transportation Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking and its subcommittee's draft reports (as of 3/20/19) ;

US DOT Blue Lightening Campaign, and related meeting summaries and training ; ;


NCHRP 20-121, State DoT Contributions to the Study, Investigation, and Interdiction of Human Trafficking

Idea No. 203