Written by By Megan Angelo, CNN
The US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered all federal prosecutors to prioritize investigating and prosecuting “electronic harassment” cases related to air travel, in a move that may help curb verbal threats, racial slurs and unwanted advances on passengers.
Such attacks are often accompanied by verbal and physical threats and escalate quickly, The New York Times reported.
“These acts of violence are disturbingly common in some parts of the country and they can have grave consequences,” Sessions said in a statement Tuesday. “Eighty-three percent of reported cases involve alcohol or drug consumption and may be motivated by the offender’s anger or frustration over a seemingly minor inconvenience.”
“The continued public safety of our nation’s citizens requires that we take the necessary steps to aggressively pursue these crimes and protect victims,” he added.
In the past, some reports of such harassment have led to people being arrested, but once someone has been identified as an offender, other charges, such as violating federal firearms laws, have been brought against them in certain cases.
Here are some facts about air travel assault cases, according to the White House fact sheet.
Report of an incident is not a statement of fact
Airline passengers are entitled to peace and quiet at every moment on their flights, according to federal law. There are strict rules in place that prohibit any form of verbal harassment, assault or battery and even threats of violence on airline flights.
An anonymous passenger can report a crime
An anonymous witness can report a crime, regardless of whether the passenger is the victim or is a witness to the crime.
Four instances of air travel assault in recent years
In June 2017, a man was arrested after harassing a female passenger on a Denver-bound flight. He was convicted last month and given four years in prison, according to the Department of Justice.
In April 2017, a man was arrested on a US Airways flight for groping a female passenger in her seat, reported the FAA.
In January 2017, three men were arrested on a US Airways flight for “making inappropriate remarks and sexual gestures to an attendant,” said the TSA.
It’s been more than a decade since the first case of an air travel assault was reported in the United States, according to the White House fact sheet. In a pilot incident in 2007, a Washington-to-Seattle traveler was arrested for punching his daughter’s grandmother after she told him to stop touching her niece, according to the FAA.
So far this year, the FAA says, one Air Force officer was arrested for assaulting a fellow officer on a flight.