According to the Charlotte County Airport Authority, Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) is the second airport in Florida to join the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Blue Lightning Initiative” (BLI). The initiative is designed to combat human trafficking by training and educating frontline airport workers. Miami International Airport was the first Florida airport to implement the initiative in November 2020.
PGD’s COO Gary Duncan set the wheels in motion to bring the initiative to Charlotte County several months ago. “We want to demonstrate regional leadership and show PGD’s commitment to preventing human trafficking in southwest Florida,” said Duncan. “If we can help stop just one incident, then all the training will be worth our while.”
The airport authority’s 100 employees will be the first to take part in the BLI training program to learn how to properly identify and report suspicious behavior. There are plans to expand the training to the entire airport community in an effort to protect employees and customers alike. PGD’s commercial carriers, Allegiant Air and Sun Country Airlines, already have established BLI partnerships with DHS.
“The U.S. Department of Transportation is proud to work with our partners across government and the aviation sector on critical counter-trafficking efforts,” said Julie Abraham, director, Office of International Transportation and Trade at the U.S. Department of Transportation. “When frontline aviation personnel are trained to recognize and report suspected instances of human trafficking, actionable tips are reported to law enforcement to help stop the crime. This BLI partnership highlights the commitment of the airport industry in joining airlines and industry associations across the country to take a stand against human trafficking.”
“The DHS Blue Campaign is proud to sign a memorandum of understanding with Punta Gorda Airport. PGD joins a growing list of 90 aviation partners working to combat human trafficking through our Blue Lightning Initiative” said Brandi Bynum, Blue Campaign program manager. “We look forward to assisting PGD with their training efforts and expanding this initiative to additional Airports throughout the U.S.”
Travelers will also see BLI messages throughout the Bailey Terminal, particularly in pre-security near the screening checkpoints, in gate areas, baggage claim and in the restrooms.
The Blue Lightning Initiative is an element of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign led jointly by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a DHS component agency. BLI trains personnel to combat human trafficking within the aviation industry.
The Blue Campaign is a critical member of the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT), a cross-department coordination center for countering sex trafficking and forced labor, including the importation of goods produced with forced labor. CCHT’s mission is to advance counter-human trafficking law enforcement operations, protect victims, and enhance prevention efforts by aligning DHS’s capabilities and expertise.
When such suspicions are triggered, employees have been instructed to follow the BLI reporting protocol and expeditiously report tips to the DHS Tip Line number at (866) 347-2423.
The United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Department of Transportation are Federal agencies of the United States Government and are separate and distinct entities from this airport system.Aviation Pros