Fairbanks airport employees train to spot human trafficking

Fairbanks International Airport
Fairbanks International Airport (File/KUAC)

Fairbanks International Airport is training employees to be more vigilant about human trafficking under a new federal program.

Amanda Stonecipher, the airport’s safety officer, said the training covers “how to recognize what that might look like if someone is being trafficked, what signs and what clues we’re looking for.”

She said airport staff are 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,” Stonecipher said. “You know, there’s so many that go unreported, especially in our smaller rural of communities where there’s not law enforcement presence.”

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 victims of 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 federal departments of Homeland Security and Transportation to defend against human trafficking. It’s called the Blue Lightning Initiative.

Stonecipher took her position 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 state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is sending her to Washington, D.C. for a summit on Human Trafficking Prevention Month. She will then train the 100 DOTPF employees at the airport, and may reach out to airline employees after that.

Stonecipher said many aviation employees want to help.

“ 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,” she said. “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.”

Stonecipher said 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.

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