Could you spot trafficking victims at the airport? San Antonio airport officials want to teach you how

San Antonio International Airport fourth in nation to join Department Homeland Security campaign

SAN ANTONIO – Highways, buses, trains and planes are all used as modes of transportation for human and sex traffickers.

With airports being a major concern, the San Antonio International Airport just signed onto a new partnership with the Department of Homeland Security.

The DHS Blue Campaign educates people to help identify survivors and stop traffickers.

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Just days after the partnership was confirmed, KSAT got an exclusive tour of the Airport Integrated Command Center, or AICC. It’s a dark room lined with security camera shots, law enforcement information, and rows of staff members taking calls.

"We're the heartbeat of the airport. Any kind of information that comes into the airport gets dispersed by our department," said AICC Training Supervisor Shana Dewey.

Dewey and her team intercept all calls for emergency and safety issues, including human trafficking reports.

“It’s one of the first things we trained on. Watching cameras, there’s certain hints that we watch for. We take the phone calls when somebody thinks they’re viewing or witnessing human trafficking firsthand,” Dewey said.

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The entire airport staff is trained as well, part of an initiative two years in the making, that created a Human Trafficking Program Committee, made up of law enforcement, advocacy groups, and survivors.

This week, the airport took a huge step forward, becoming the fourth in the country to join the DHS Blue Campaign addressing human trafficking.

“Now there will be a formal training, through DHS which puts on a virtual training module and provides us educational material. That will actually roll out to our concessions. The airlines already have a program so we’re going to integrate,” said Airport Security Project Manager Desiree Curtis.

Curtis said that integration can help cut down on response times, which is crucial.

In June, KSAT reported that a couple was arrested for allegedly trafficking a woman across state lines. The victim told police she escaped from a San Antonio hotel and went straight to the airport.

“She actually made a phone call to our communications center and our communications center was able to get the data and get her the help she needed. That’s a success story because a lot of them can’t get away. They’re in fear, intimidated or threatened so there is no where they feel comfortable going to someone else,” Curtis said.

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Sex trafficking survivors have told KSAT that public restrooms are one of the only places they can go to get away from their trafficker for at least a short period of time.

That’s why the San Antonio Airport will soon have small plastic cards in all of the bathrooms. The cards list a lot of resources.

A victim can take a card and quietly go up to any staff member at the airport and hand them the card, signifying they need help.

That staff member is already trained to alert the right people so action can be taken.

It also works the other way. Airport staff or members of the public can pass the card to someone they think may be in trouble.

Dewey said to look for these red flags when traveling:

  • Does the person look disheveled, tired, hungry, or injured?
  • Do they look nervous?
  • Are they traveling with someone who seems to be in control of them?
  • Is that travel partner the one handling the identification document?
  • Does the person know the address on their own ID?

Dewey said if you see any of the many signs of trafficking, call or tell someone, even if you aren’t sure. You may unknowingly, be saving someone’s life.

Soon, there will also be educational signs posted all around the airport, educating the public about how to spot and report possible trafficking.

If you or someone you know is possibly being trafficked, take a look at these resources:

  • For children and young adults: Roy Maas Youth Alternatives -- (210) 340-8077 and email
  • National Runaway Hotline Call –1-800-RUNAWAY &
  • Rape Crisis Center – 210-349-7273
  • San Antonio Police Non-Emergency Number – 210-207-7273
  • Suicide Prevention Hotline/Crisis Line – 210-223-7233 (SAFE) or 800-316-9241
  • Texas Child Abuse Hotline – 800-252-5400
  • United Way Community Services – Dial 211

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.

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