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13 April 2021, 2:29pm
Media Release

Airport Watch launched at Canberra Airport to target growing crime threat

Editors note: Photos from the launch are available via Hightail. Audio grabs are also available via Hightail.

The Australian Federal Police is today launching a rebooted Airport Watch program at Canberra Airport 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 Airport Police Commander at Canberra Airport, Simon Henry, said it was an ideal time to revive and strengthen security measures at Canberra 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,” Commander Henry said.

“I am today calling on Canberrans and those passing through our city to keep your eyes and ears open as you embark on domestic travel over the coming year.

“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 the disruption 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.

“In Canberra, this initiative builds on the AFP’s close relationship with both Canberra Airport and the local community.

“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.”

Canberra Airport Head of Aviation, Michael Thompson said:

“Safety and security is critically important to Canberra Airport, its day-to-day operations and all our airport users. We welcome and support the reactivation of Airport Watch by the AFP which strengthens our current security measures at the airport.”

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 Henry 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.

For more information on human trafficking and the signs to look for, visit the Human Trafficking page. FY20 human trafficking and slavery statistics can also be found in the Stop human trafficking happening in plain sight media release.

If you or someone you know could be a victim of this crime type, please report it by calling 131 AFP (237).

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 Airport Watch page.

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