Airlines boost human trafficking awareness training ahead of Super Bowl originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
As fans got revved for Super Bowl Sunday, members of the travel sector prepped for the weekend in a different way.
While Miami airports began preparing for an influx of visitors coming to watch the big game at the Hard Rock Stadium, airlines offered training programs to teach their employees how to spot human trafficking.
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Last year, the FBI arrested 169 people involved in sex trafficking in the days leading up to and during the Super Bowl in Atlanta.
While some anti-human trafficking groups, such as the Polaris Project, said the statistics don't show a significant increase in incidents during this time of the year -- officials said any big event that brings a large crowd could boost the chances.
Flight attendants, pilots, gate agents and personnel from the Transportation Security Administration, were well-equipped ahead of Sunday's big game between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs to keep their eyes peeled for anything suspicious.
Miami International Airport said they expect more than 90,000 passengers to depart from the airport on Monday.
While many airlines already train their flight attendants on the tell-tale signs of sex trafficking, some -- Delta Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines -- have introduced mandatory training for their personnel on how to help victims.
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Some airlines were also hosting seminars to raise awareness.
American Airlines estimated that 70,000 of their customer-facing employees have already received human trafficking awareness training. In addition, last week, the airline also hosted seminars in Miami and at their headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
The officials said they wanted to make sure their employees knew what to look for and how to respond to suspected cases of human trafficking.
Delta too said it has done a lot to bring awareness to the problem -- ahead of the Super Bowl and year-round.
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The company estimated that 86,000 of their employees have already taken in-depth, custom training sessions, according to a statement.
Delta provides situational awareness trainings so that employees would know how to approach situations of sex trafficking in a way that best protects the victims, the statement said.
In the Miami airport this weekend, Delta put up signs with information telling employees and travelers what to look for in potential victims. The phone number for the National Human Trafficking Prevention Hotline was also on the posters. A Delta spokesperson said that with millions of people in the airport over the next few days, it's the perfect platform to bring broader awareness to the ongoing problem.
Ashley Moody, Florida’s attorney general, called on many involved in both the travel and hospitality sectors to be vigilant for signs of human trafficking during a press conference last week.
"Sadly, when thousands of people come together to celebrate major events, criminals look to exploit the market through downright malicious acts of evil," Moody said in a press release. "We are making preparations now to help stop these crimes, protect visitors and hold accountable anyone who would exploit this event to profit off the misery of another human being."
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Moody also attended a training for Uber drivers that gave them more information about human trafficking. The training was one of three provided to Uber drivers in the tri-county Miami area leading up to the Super Bowl, according to an Uber spokesperson.
"Drivers are the eyes and ears on the road and, through partnerships, we hope to provide them with the necessary resources developed by experts that will help empower them to take action," Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West said in a press release.
While Super Bowl weekend has drawn attention to the human trafficking issue, some advocates noted that the problem doesn't just occur during sporting events, but is a year-round issue that has to be addressed as such.
"In reality, what we're seeing in the statistics and in the reports received through the National Human Trafficking hotline is that trafficking happens all the time, not just around large sporting events" said Megan Cutter, the associate director of national hotlines for the Polaris Project, an organization that runs the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.
While Cutter said advocates in the anti-human trafficking field are grateful for the support, their efforts need to go deeper in order to give community members all the tools they need to prevent someone from becoming a victim.
ABC News' Mina Kaji contributed to this report.
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