Hidden in “Plane” Sight: Human Trafficking at The Oakland Airport

While the Oakland Airport is one of the smaller airports in the Bay Area, it has a rich history. It was built in 1927 and at that time held the record for the longest runway in the world at 7,020 feet. In 1932, Amelia Earhart landed the first solo trans-Pacific flight at the Oakland airport to a crowd of 15,000. Just a few years later, Earhart took off from the Oakland airport to begin her notorious final flight (Port of Oakland).

Airports are frequently used as a tool by traffickers, in both the initial recruitment or trafficking of victims as well as the transportation of trafficked individuals to different locations. For that reason, airports and airport workers are an important tool in the detection and prevention of human trafficking. In April of 2014, employees of the Oakland Airport underwent intensive training on how to recognize human traffickers and sexual exploiters of children. Everyone from baggage handlers to TSA agents were taught various ways to spot human traffickers and recognize the behavior of trafficked children. The workshop included a talk from former sex-trafficking victim Shamere McKenzie, the executive director of the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition, Betty Anne Boeving, and several California government leaders including Jackie Speier, Barbara Lee and Nancy O’Malley (_SF Chronicle_.)

Signs and warnings of potential trafficking situations taking place at the airport:
-Someone is dressed inappropriately for the weather expected at his or her destination.
-The adult with whom a young person is traveling answers all of the ticket agent’s questions without letting the child or young adult talk.
-Someone says their flight was paid for by someone he or she has never met in person
-A child refuses to make eye contact
-Someone is not carrying any personal possessions
-A child has a barcode tattooed onto his or her neck (_SF Chronicle_).

The Oakland airport has an important history and is a landmark location for the city. It will contribute to the tour because the tour-taker will learn about a historic Oakland location as well as the ways in which he or she can be involved in watching out for potential trafficking situations. The Oakland airport is significant to residents of Oakland as a marker of Oakland’s rich history as well as a physical space that is a gateway to and from the city. In addition, the airport is significant to any victim of human trafficking who has ever passed through it, as his or her presence at the location signifies the ongoing existence of this troubling reality.

Street Address:

1 Airport Dr, Oakland, CA 94621
(510) 563-3300 [map]

Cite this Page:

Kendall Anderson, “Hidden in “Plane” Sight: Human Trafficking at The Oakland Airport,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed October 20, 2018, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/4.

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