Airport Watch launched amid increasing domestic travel and growing crime threat

The Australian Federal Police is today rebooting its Airport Watch program across nine major airports to coincide with increasing domestic travel and the potential for growth in crime throughout the aviation environment.

With domestic travel likely to continue increasing throughout 2021, the AFP will use Airport Watch to alert the public and aviation workers about what suspicious activity looks like and how to report it to authorities.

Aviation staff, retail employees and others at Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney airports will receive training and educational resources.

COVID-19 has created significant shifts within the aviation environment, including the employment of staff who have never worked at airports before.

AFP Specialist Protective Command Commander Linda Champion said it was an ideal time to revive and strengthen security measures at Australia’s nine designated airports.

“The public plays a critical role working with police every day to keep their communities safe. The aviation environment is no different,” Commander Champion said.

“We are calling on the travelling public to keep their eyes and ears open as they embark on domestic travel over the coming year.

“Due to COVID-19 significantly disrupting both the aviation industry, we believe it is important to prevent any attempts by criminals to exploit the disruption to their own criminal ends. Aviation industry staff and the public can make meaningful contributions to the prevention of such exploitation.

“Airport Watch aims to educate those working in and traveling through major airports about what should be reported and how.

“It will work by establishing and building on pre-existing relationships with stakeholders but also place an emphasis on engagement with the public.

“Our message is: if you see or hear something unusual while working at or travelling through one of our major airports, please call the AFP’s Airport Watch on 131 237 – it might just prevent a crime and bring perpetrators to the attention of authorities.”

Sydney Airport General Manager of Operations, Matt Duffy said:

“Sydney Airport is proud to partner with the Australian Federal Police and support this important initiative. As passengers and staff start returning to airports, now is the perfect time to remind everyone to be on the lookout for suspicious behaviour and if they see it, report it.

“Airport workers, travellers and visitors to the airport all have an important role in keeping themselves and each other safe.”

Suspicious activity or unusual behaviour includes:

  • A person observed displaying an unusually keen interest in security procedures;
  • A person observed recording or taking photos in or around sensitive areas of the airport;
  • Anyone acting strangely or in an unusual manner;
  • Anyone heard asking questions to gain information about the airport; and
  • Anyone trying to gain unauthorised access to secure areas.

As part of the campaign, the AFP will also be highlighting how airport staff and the public can recognise and respond to human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like crimes; the physical movement of people across and within borders through deceptive means, force or coercion.

“Airport staff are the first point of contact for people being trafficked into Australia, and the last line of defence for people being trafficked out of Australia,” Commander Champion said.

“This is where we have the best chance of stopping harm from occurring before the person goes off-shore, or goes into our community where offending happens behind closed doors.

“Airport staff have an important role to play in protecting people who are vulnerable to these exploitative crime types, particularly as international travel increases again.”

The AFP encourages airport staff and the public to report any suspicious activity, such as someone being moved through the airport against their will, or not being allowed to answer questions about their travel themselves.

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