BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The FBI says the number of sexual assaults aboard airplanes is on the rise, and agents say most of the victims are women and unaccompanied minors.
One FBI official told WJZ that this is the worst he has seen it in the past 17 years, with most of the sexual assaults taking place on overnight flights. The FBI says innocent victims are being taken advantage of and some are even too afraid to come forward.
“It’s increasing at an alarming rate,” FBI Agent David Rodski said.
The number of in-flight assaults has been on the rise for months.
Passengers are reportedly being groped or touched, often while asleep and covered with a blanket.
“The vast majority of victims have been in center seats, or predominantly window seats, actually — typically towards the back end of the aircraft,” Rodski said.
Most coming on late night or red-eye flights.
“The aircraft at night, lights are down, people may feel emboldened or powered. That armrest is one of your best defenses in that situation,” Rodski said.
Per the FBI, the number of sexual assaults on board was at 38 in 2014. Last fiscal year, it jumped to 63.
While the incidents take place in the air, agents say some have been reported to BWI or not reported at all.
“I’m shocked at the number of passengers who do not take that act and they’ll wait until the plane is on the ground,” Rodski said.
Flights become terrifying ordeals, scarring some for life.
“So devastating. One thing most of them say is they’re wondering, ‘What did I do? Was it something I did, said?'” said FBI Victim Specialist Renee Murrell.
While the warning is out for those flying, the FBI wants those behind the acts to know, there’s nowhere to run.
“A commercial aircraft in the territorial jurisdiction of the United States is the worst place to conduct any criminal activity because we have you fully identified. There’s nowhere to go on that plane. You can’t open the door, you can’t run when you get off because we’ll be waiting for you,” Rodski said.
The FBI says anyone accused of the sexual assault automatically enters their database. Even if the flight is international, law enforcement overseas is made aware and immediately handles the situation as soon as the plane lands.
Reports of assaults, according to the FBI, are coming in from various airports across the country.
“We’re getting these reports nationwide. Every airport and every other agent I talk to at airports, they’re seeing the same exact thing,” Rodski said.