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Feds’ program expands fight against human trafficking

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is adding a new tool in its fight against human trafficking.

The Blue Lightning Initiative relied on people in airports to keep an eye out for trafficked people. Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said anyone can help.

“Law enforcement needs the eyes and ears of people – particularly in airports -– whether they’re flight attendants, or pilots or people checking people in,” Kerlikowske said in Phoenix on Thursday.

The initiative was started under former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in 2010.

The U.S. State Department said as many as 800,000 people are trafficked internationally every year. It’s suspected at least half of those people are children.

“In sex trafficking – or even, at times, forced-labor trafficking – people are brought into and out of airports on a pretty regular basis,” Kerlikowske said.

He said anyone who have any suspicions about the way an adult or child was acting – especially if they look frightened or are prevented from speaking to anyone – notify a nearby law enforcement officer immediately.

Travelers at Sky Harbor Airport can call the airport’s emergency line at 602-273-3311 to report those suspicions.

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