Maui News

Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation Joins Fight Against Human Trafficking

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Kahului Airport photo

Kahului Airport file photo. Photo Credit: Wendy Osher

The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation is partnering with the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Transportation on an outreach campaign to combat human trafficking through the Blue Lightning Initiative program.

The program trains personnel within the aviation industry to identify potential traffickers and human trafficking victims and report their suspicions to federal law enforcement. It is an element of the DHS Blue Campaign led by the US DOT and the US Customs and Border Protection, a DHS agency.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation is the first state transportation department in the country to become a formal partner in the Blue Light Initiative program.

Trent Frazier, Executive Director of the DHS Office of Campaigns and Academic Engagement, said the Blue Lightning Initiative will add Hawaiʻi’s five major airports, including Kahului Airport on Maui, to a growing community of more than 47 partners working in tandem to recognize and report human trafficking across our nation’s transportation system.

In addition to the training offered to airport personnel, this partnership will establish the DHS Tip Line  as the State of Hawaiʻi’s primary reporting tool. It will connect Hawaiʻi into a national network of dedicated investigators and expand the sharing of critical tips across the country, Frazier added.

“The State of Hawaiʻi and the HDOT Airports Division fully support the anti-human trafficking goals of the [Blue Lightning Initiative program],” Gov. David Ige said. “This agreement affirms and recognizes our goal to completely eradicate all forms of human trafficking. We will do everything in our power to work with the federal government in ending these heinous crimes.”

Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay said: “The practice of human trafficking is a scourge to humanity and it must end. HDOT is anxious to empower our employees and partners within the aviation industry with the knowledge to recognize and report suspected instances of human trafficking. This partnership is an impressive step forward, one that highlights the dedication of this community in taking a stand to end human trafficking.”

Hawaii Department of Transportation Deputy Director Lynn Araki-Regan said that with COVID-19 leading to high unemployment and changing conditions around the world, people may find themselves forced or inadvertently lured to the false promises of traffickers.

“Our message is that human trafficking will not be tolerated,” Araki-Regan said. “We cannot allow our transportation system to be an enabler in such atrocious acts.”

HDOT also will partner with the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General on a broader statewide anti-trafficking initiative that includes trainings for HDOT personnel and awareness campaigns throughout Hawaiʻi. Homeland Security Investigations, a critical investigative arm of DHS, leads local anti-trafficking efforts and will support the HDOT state-wide campaign.

“Combating human trafficking is a priority for my Department,” Hawaiʻi Attorney General Clare E. Connors said. “Protecting the most vulnerable in our community from exploitation will take a coordinated, multidisciplinary effort between our partners in law enforcement, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.”

All modes of transportation can be unwitting conduits for human trafficking; thus, with proper awareness and training, employees in the transportation industry can be key assets in identifying and reporting suspicious behavior.

When such suspicions are triggered, employees have been instructed to follow the Blue Lightning Initiative reporting protocol and expeditiously report tips to the DHS Tip Line number at (866) 347-2423. To report child trafficking, call the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Human Services Child Trafficking (Child Welfare Services) Hotline at (808) 832-1999 (Oahu) or 1-888-398-1188 (Neighbor Islands). As always, in the event of an immediate emergency, call 911.

For airports, airlines and aviation industry organizations looking to learn more about partnering with Blue Lightning Initiative to train their employees on human trafficking and reporting options, email [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.


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