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AIRCOP is a  multi agency project based on the cooperation between  UNODCINTERPOL and  the World Customs Organisations (WCO) that aimed at  strengthening the capacities of participating  international airports in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East to  detect and intercept drugs, other illicit goods and high-risk passengers in both origin, transit and destination countries with the overall objective of  disrupting the illegal criminal networks.

AIRCOP was initially designed in 2010 as part of the  European Union's Cocaine Route Programme  to curb cocaine trafficking on passengers, in cargo and mail, from source countries in Latin America - via the Caribbean and Africa - to Europe.

The increased capacity and knowledge of trained personnel has led to the expansion of the project scope to cover the multiple  threats targeting airports, including all illicit drugs, illicit goods (such as wildlife, counterfeit medicines or weapons) and, as of late, terrorism and trafficking in persons.

The project has also expanded its geographical coverage and currently includes airports in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle. As such, AIRCOP is a key component of an integrated approach to border control management.

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Airport Communication Programme AIRCOP

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) have joined forces along with seventeen States in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America in the design and execution of the " Airport Communication Programme: Establishment of real-time operational communication between international airports in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean" (AIRCOP), which is financed by the European Commission (EC) and Canada.

AIRCOP is a multi-agency, anti-trafficking initiative which strengthens detection, interdiction and investigative capacities of participating airports in illicit drug source and transit countries. The overall objective is to disrupt the illegal networks that are disseminating drugs and other illicit products at source and transit points through smarter, more effective, well-connected, intelligence led counter-narcotic activities.

Operational units working in airports in source, transit and destination countries are connected to each other via a secure communication network, CENComm, supplied by the World Customs Organization , permitting them to share crucial law enforcement data in real-time with their international counterparts.

Operational units are also provided with direct access to INTERPOL tools and databases that are available through the INTERPOL I-24/7 system .  I-24/7 is a global police communication system that permits authorized users to share sensitive and urgent police information with their counterparts around the globe 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  It is the network that enables investigators to access INTERPOL's range of criminal databases .  Using these tools, authorized users can search and cross-check massive amounts of data in a matter of seconds.

Finally, and in partnership with participating agencies and utilizing globally sourced expertise, AIRCOP oversees carefully designed up-skilling and mentoring programmes to provide long-term capability enhancement and share international best practices in all matters relating to the detection and investigation of drug-related criminal networks.

The anticipated concrete results of this initiative are the following:

  • Improved communication between participating agencies through the provision of secure, closed group, multi-lingual communication tool (CENComm) designed and managed by the World Customs Organization. CENComm permits communication in real time between national and international operational teams working in the field of narcotic interception and investigation.  It makes available to participating agencies; preformatted Alert, Seizure and Feedback messages available in six languages (English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish) to facilitate the easy sharing of vital data between teams operating in different locations and different languages.  Via these preformatted alerts and the secure messaging tool, teams can share vital law enforcement data on suspects and known criminals, as well as international alerts.  A library facility permits the up and downloading of notices on current and emerging modus operandi, photographs, trend data and any other information critical to the fight against drug trafficking;
  • Full access for participating agencies to international criminal databases, alerts and analytical tools provided by INTERPOL to permit comprehensive analysis of nominal data, documents, telephone numbers and identification material;
  • Maximized exploitation of the variety of data available to the different agencies involved in airport counter narcotics, bringing this information together to be put to use of one multi-agency team;
  • Enhanced skill base via advanced up-skilling and mentoring programmes that lead the field internationally in methods and techniques of risk analysis, drug detection, search methodology, interrogation and criminal network investigation;
  • Provision of necessary equipment to support operational drug detection teams;
  • Established secure, direct connections with vetted units in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America and the to support information sharing and the coordination of counter-narcotic operations such as controlled deliveries; and
  • Coordinated international operations to test the system, build and firmly establish operational relationships and identify and dismantle criminal networks.