(Fairbanks, AK) - The Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) has partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Transportation to defend against human trafficking through the Blue Lightning Initiative (BLI).
This critically important initiative, led by the Department of Transportation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection as an element of the Department of Homeland Security's' Blue Campaign, is designed to educate aviation personnel on the indicators of human trafficking, and how to appropriately report possible cases.
Human trafficking is a pervasive act that exploits a person through force, fraud, or coercion. A person may not know they are a victim until they have arrived at a worksite, home, or building. A person who is being trafficked can be exploited for labor or commercial sex acts. Traffickers often exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims, and work diligently to establish a "relationship" with their victims to guilt them into exploitive and illicit acts.
"As of 2019, Alaska's rate of reported sexual assaults was four times the national average. Last year (2022) 27.6 million people were victims of forced labor worldwide and 6.3 million people were reported victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation. With these numbers it is not inconceivable that a state as remote as Alaska has such high reports of forced labor in our communities. FAI is proactively stepping up to help combat this horrific crime and ensure the safety of all Alaskans." Said Amanda Stonecipher, FAI's Safety Officer. "This is why every employee at the Fairbanks International Airport will be offered training through Blue Lightning Initiative."
"In Alaska, we have vulnerable communities filled with young and old individuals looking for opportunities to advance their lives and the lives of their families. Traffickers recognize these desires and may solicit false ads for work to lure them out of their hometown, village, or community to a metropolitan area like Fairbanks or Anchorage," said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy.
FAI will be joining BLI's 110 partners, who have already trained over 200,000 aviation industry personnel. Airport Police and Fire will receive advanced training as part of the program which will be managed by FAI's Safety Officer, Amanda Stonecipher who also has a law enforcement background. "FAI has a team of professionals committed to the training of all staff to ensure we are doing our part to combat human trafficking within the aviation industry," said Angie Spear, Airport Manager.
"The U.S. Department of Transportation is proud to work with our government and aviation sector partners on critical counter-trafficking efforts," said Julie Abraham, Director, Office of International Transportation and Trade at the U.S. Department of Transportation. "When frontline aviation personnel are trained to recognize and report suspected instances of human trafficking, actionable tips are reported to law enforcement to help stop the crime. This BLI partnership highlights the commitment of the airport industry in joining airlines and aviation industry organizations across the country to take a stand against human trafficking."
"Blue Campaign is proud to partner with Fairbanks International Airport to continue the fight towards ending human trafficking. Through this partnership, the Blue Lightning Initiative will add its second Alaskan Airport to a growing community of over 110 partners working to recognize and report human trafficking across the U.S. transportation system," said Brandi Bynum, Program Manager, DHS Blue Campaign
It is vital to remember that all mediums of transportation can be channels for human trafficking, to remain vigilant when traveling alone, and to vet all online acquaintances. With FAI joining forces with BLI to target human trafficking efforts, traveler safety will increase. FAI employees are instructed to report suspicious activity to the DHS Tip Line (866) 347-2423. If you suspect you may be a victim of human trafficking please call (866)-373-7888. If you are experiencing an emergency at the Fairbanks International Airport and need support, please dial 911.
Fairbanks International Airport is the gateway to Alaska’s interior and Denali National Park. It’s one half of the Alaska International Airport System and serves more than a million passengers annually. Equipped to handle any size and type of aircraft, anytime, with state-of-the-art landing systems and terminal facilities. Accounts for 1 in 20 jobs for a total of 1,900 jobs in Fairbanks.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 237 airports, 9 ferries serving 33 communities along 3,500 marinemiles, over 5,600 miles of highway and 839 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of the department is to "Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure."