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SFO installs human trafficking help placards in airport bathrooms

Officials with the San Francisco International Airport Monday announced a new initiative to combat human trafficking as Monday marked National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

SFO installed placards in all of the airport’s bathroom to encourage victims of human trafficking to seek help. Officials said restrooms were chosen because they are one of the few locations that a victim may be separated from the trafficker. A total of 910 placards have been installed.

Placards provide a phone number that victims can call or text. There is also a QR code that can be scanned for immediate help. Calls and texts are immediately sent to SFO’s Communication Dispatch Center. A live person is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, officials said.

The airport worked with the Mayor’s Office, Department on the Status of Women and several Bay Area human trafficking survivor advocacy groups to create the placards, which are translated in Chinese, Spanish and Tagalog.

Working in partnership with Agent511, dispatchers have the tools to translate text messages from victims in any language.

In statement, SFO Director Ivar Satero said:

“As the first airport in the nation to have aviation personnel undergo specialized training to better spot the signs of human trafficking, SFO recognized early on the role airports around the world can play in helping to disrupt and dismantle this heinous activity.”

He added:

“We hope this latest initiative will raise awareness on the issue and encourage victims to seek help.”

Mayor London Breed Friday joined a press conference, hosted by the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking, to announce the new SFO initiative and discuss new training being implemented at the Department of Public Health as a way to combat human trafficking.

Breed said in a statement:

“These new initiatives, along with the hard work of numerous service providers and our law enforcement partners, will help us advance our work to support survivors and end human trafficking in San Francisco.”

Officials said DPH’s environmental health inspectors will begin integrating the new training program this month that will help inspectors identify signs of human trafficking when they inspect businesses like restaurants, bars, gas stations, personal care services establishments and residential hotels. The department employs more than 100 inspectors.

San Francisco Police Department data showed there were 51 human trafficking cases reported to police in 2020. A 2019 report from the Mayor’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, examining 2017 data, identified 673 human trafficking survivors based on information from 22 public and non-profit task force agencies.

Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement that the department recognizes that victims of human trafficking are often forced into criminal behavior that puts them in contact with police officers, adding:

“That’s why we continue to assign dedicated investigators within our Special Victims Unit to address the myriad sensitivities of human trafficking crimes.”

In a statement, Dr. Grant Colfax, director of DPH, said:

“With the addition of 100 trained regulatory inspectors to this effort, the initiative will further reduce and prevent labor exploitation and human trafficking.”

If you or someone you know may be a human trafficking victim, call 911, or the National Human Trafficking hotline at (888) 373-7888, or contact one of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking providers.

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