Synthesis Topics

Airport contributions to the investigation and interdiction of human trafficking

The objective of this research is to identify how airports can assist Federal and state law enforcement in combatting human trafficking. By supporting investigation and interdiction of human trafficking occurring in and around their facilities, airports can improve their security posture and the safety of the traveling public, as well as the diverse victims of this under-reported crime. Potential research products would be a synthesis of practice, and/or a Toolkit and PowerPoint presentation that can assist airports and airport authorities.

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 airports - to exploit men, women, and children for forced labor and/or sex commerce.

Human trafficking is 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. 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 enterprise.
Research shows, however, 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.

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. rescuing them and connecting them to services); 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 the national human trafficking help line; 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 level 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. ACRP research 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.

A key task in the research is to examine current practices that can support an airport managers' review of the human trafficking issue and their appropriate level of action, based on size, location, etc. Areas of focus would be the identification of the role(s) of airports in supporting FBI and other law enforcement activities and a review of policies, practices, and tools that airports have implemented. Research subjects could include all sizes and types of US airports - as well as international airports -involved in labor and sex trafficking interdiction.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The objective of this research is to identify how airports can assist Federal and state law enforcement in combatting human trafficking. By supporting investigation and interdiction of human trafficking occurring in and around their facilities, airports can improve their security posture and the safety of the traveling public, as well as the diverse victims of this under-reported crime. Potential research products would be a synthesis of practice, and/or a Toolkit and PowerPoint presentation that can assist airports and airport authorities.

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Idea No. 106