Airport Watch launched at Gold Coast Airport to target growing crime threat

The Australian Federal Police is today launching a rebooted Airport Watch program at Gold Coast Airport to coincide with increasing domestic travel and the potential for growth in organised crime and drug trafficking 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 education as part of the program.

With many new employees entering the airport workforce as domestic travel rebounds from the impact of COVID-19, it is the ideal time to raise awareness of aviation security.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Northern Command Lesa Gale, said it was an ideal time to revive and strengthen security measures at Gold Coast Airport and throughout Australia’s aviation network.

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

“We are calling on locals and those visiting the Gold Coast to keep your eyes and ears open as you embark on domestic travel. “Already in November 2020 we have seen an attempt by organised crime to import cocaine into Australia through the Gold Coast Airport. In December 2020 our officers uncovered a group attempting to ship methamphetamine from a post box at Gold Coast Airport,”

“Due to COVID-19 significantly disrupting both the aviation industry and organised crime supply chains, it is important to prevent any attempts by criminals to exploit these circumstances to their own criminal ends.

Aviation industry staff, and the public can make meaningful contributions to the prevention of such exploitation. “The AFP knows crime can be facilitated by trusted insiders. Airport Watch aims to educate those working in and traveling through major airports about what should be reported and how.

“Here on the Gold Coast, this initiative builds on the AFP’s close relationship with both Gold Coast Airport, the local community and holiday makers from all over Australia.

“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.”

Gold Coast Airport Chief Operating Officer Marion Charlton said the airport team worked closely with federal authorities on airport security matters and the Airport Watch program was a key part of the partnership.

“Airport Watch is an important national safety initiative and its relaunch comes as domestic and trans-Tasman travel ramps up significantly at Gold Coast Airport,” she said.

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.

Airport Watch complements the AFP’s existing capabilities, which include community policing and counterterrorism first response capability, air security officers, joint intelligence teams and joint investigation teams, bomb appraisal officers and firearms and explosives detection canines.

Airport Watch, first launched in 2012, offers a hotline (131 AFP) for reporting unusual and concerning behaviour. The national launch of Airport Watch took place at Sydney Airport on 24 March 2021, as part of a national rollout taking place over the coming months. For more on Airport Watch and the suspicious behaviour to look out for, visit the website.

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