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Airport employees train to spot human trafficking

KUAC file photo

Fairbanks International Airport is training employees to be more vigilant about human trafficking with a DHS program called "Blue Lightning."

Fairbanks International Airport is training employees to be more vigilant about human trafficking.

How to recognize what that might look like if someone is being trafficked, what signs and what clues we're looking for,” said Amanda Stonecipher, the Airport’s Safety officer. She says the Airport staff is already aware of why they need to identify perpetrators and victims.

“Alaska — we lead the nation as far as our sexual assault rate, and that's just what's reported, that we know about. You know, there's so many that go unreported, especially in our smaller rural of communities where there's not law enforcement presence,” said Stonecipher.

You may have seen signs at the airport trying to help victims, and many airport employees have already had training from local non-profits in recognizing domestic violence and sexual assault:

“Not able to be out of someone's eyesight or can't go to the restroom on their own or can't control their money, or is not allowed to have their own cell phone, and yet they're an adult,” said Stonecipher.

But now there’s more. The Airport is launching a training program from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Transportation to defend against human trafficking. It’s called the Blue Lightning Initiative (BLI).

Stonecipher became the airport’s Safety Officer during the first week COVID testing was set up in the building. But she was with the airport’s law enforcement office before that. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is sending her to Washington D.C. for a summit on Human Trafficking Prevention Month. She will be training the 100 DOT employees at the airport, and may reach out to airline employees after that. She says many aviation employees want to help.

“ Before this, this training came to me, we were putting out in our badging office -- where everybody who is an airport employee, whether you work for Everett’s, or North Pole Coffee Roasters, or you work for us (DOT&PF) -- you gotta go get a badge.  And there, our badging officer, she has out, wallet-sized cards that have the indicators and the signs of what to look for when someone's being trafficked. I know that those flew off the shelves the minute we put them in there, so, I do know there's quite a bit of air aviation personnel here at the airport that have indicator carts with them, so that's really awesome too,” said Stonecipher.

Stonecipher says reports of suspicious activity go to Homeland Security investigators in Anchorage. If you suspect you may be a victim of human trafficking, call (866)-373-7888.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.