Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: The fight against human trafficking continues

Guest Author by Guest Author | Jul 28, 2020

Written by Jan Lennon, Assistant General Manager, Public Safety and Security Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are currently 25 million victims of human trafficking around the world. In 2016, 40 million people globally were held in modern slavery on any given day. Twenty-five percent of those were children. Seventy-five percent are women and girls. And in the U.S., there are more than 50,000 individual victims trafficked into the country each year.

The world’s busiest airport takes a stance

While the numbers are difficult to quantify, the world’s busiest passenger airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), continues to shine a light into the dark waters of human trafficking. The crime of human trafficking is a very complex and complicated issue. No other issue of our time is more pervasive or more menacing. It permeates every sector of society, all around the globe.

Slavery, in many forms, still exists today. Every day, people are bought, sold and smuggled. Human trafficking is a growing form of transnational crime, affording high profit and low risk to its perpetrators.

The first step in the fight is to acknowledge its existence: to learn as much as we can about its nature. It’s a crime of economic nature; that is the dark side of globalization. Annually, the business of human trafficking globally generates an estimated $150 billion in profits, according to the ILO.

Victims are often the most vulnerable among us, those living on the margins of society — young women and children. According to a 2018 Polaris survey of human trafficking victims, risk factors for human trafficking include:

  • recent migration/relocation
  • substance use
  • unstable housing
  • homelessness
  • mental health issues

The world’s busiest and most efficient airport stands with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the city of Atlanta to raise awareness of this growing threat, and to prepare each of us to stand up for someone who might fall prey to a predator.

Not in our airport

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact to countless industries and human lives, our principles demand that we continue placing the health and safety of our employees and customers foremost. Though fewer passengers are traveling domestically and internationally, we remain committed to stopping criminals who prey on our most vulnerable. This is why in our messaging and mission we clearly state that humans are not for sale—not in our country, not in our state, not in our communities, not in our Airport, and certainly not on our watch.

Survivors of human trafficking share testimonies during the ATL End Human Trafficking Summit in 2019.

PSAs throughout the Airport sound several times each day, urging visitors and employees that if they see something, say something. Signage prominently displayed throughout our campus depicts a young female with “Not For Sale” boldly written on her palm. In this messaging, we urge all to report suspicious behaviour by calling 911 so that law enforcement officials can thoroughly investigate. 

We also have taken the initiative to raise awareness through continuously training our staff, local schools, and community and civic organizations to spot warning signs, in addition to training them on how to report potential crimes. We have many local and federal allies in this fight.

Awareness, education, and community

In 2017, ATL became the world’s first airport to sign a pledge to the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, an action plan to end the sexual exploitation of children.

Leading up to Super Bowl 53 in February 2019, the FBI made 169 arrests over an 11-day period in the metro Atlanta area. Although no arrests from human trafficking occurred at Hartsfield-Jackson, airport leaders remain on alert.

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We further solidified our stance when more than 500 registrants and prominent speakers from across the nation gathered for our End Human Trafficking ATL Summit in March 2019.

Airport Public Affairs Director Myrna White welcomes the 500+ crowd at the the ATL End Human Trafficking Summit

Eradicating human trafficking is not solely a mission for police and law enforcement agencies, but a fight at all levels of society.

Globally, governments and civil society have increased their efforts to combat human trafficking. The heightened measures are necessary, as human trafficking has infiltrated many parts of our business world, such as the banking system, transportation network companies, the hospitality industry, health care industry, and social media platforms. What is clear is that governments cannot address this issue alone and must rely on the private sector and civil society organizations to join forces and scale-up solutions. We all have to work together to defeat the problem, and provide prevention and protection for potential victims.

Education drives awareness; awareness drives prevention. Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.”

Airport General Manager John Selden discusses efforts to fight modern-day slavery at ATL’s Human Trafficking Awareness press conference on January 9, 2020.

And without question, we can do better. We do better when we work together, not just in our local communities, but globally, to be the voice for the speechless, the insight for the naïve, and legislative ambassadors to confront and contend with this sinister crime.

I’m counting on all of you to help us do better in our fight to end human trafficking…for good.

Humans are not for sale, not then….not now….not ever.

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ACI World Combatting Human Trafficking Handbook (2019)
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©2018 Decisive Moment Event Photojournalism, ATL Airport Headshots

Jan Lennon is the assistant general manager for Public Safety and Security at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Her leadership includes operational responsibilities for Airport law enforcement, life and fire safety, and overseeing the day-to-day operations and regulatory compliance to ensure the safe and secure movement of approximately 280,000 passengers and 2,700 aircraft operations each day. Ms. Lennon represents Hartsfield-Jackson in leadership roles in security practice areas of several organizations, including the Transportation Security Administration. She received her International Airport Professional (IAP) certification after successfully completing the Global Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme.

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