MIAMI (CBSMiami) – To combat what they say is a growing problem, the FBI has launched a national campaign to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft.
As part of the campaign, the FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at an aircraft. Misusing a laser is a third degree felony and if the aircraft were to crash, it would be a first degree felony. Not only is it a felony, it also presents a danger to pilots, passengers and those on the ground.
Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration began tracking laser strikes in 2005, data shows a more than a thousand percent increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers. Pointing green lasers at helicopter pilots is not only a distraction to the pilot, it can also cause temporary or permanent blindness.
In February, 2014, the FBI launched a pilot program to raise awareness about the dangers of pointing lasers into aircraft cockpits and offered a reward in 12 metro areas. Since its launch, the FBI said they’ve seen a 19-percent decrease in the number of reported incidents. So now they are taking the program nationwide.
“Although our previous efforts to raise public awareness have shown early signs of success in reducing the number of laser attacks in those 12 cities, the laser threat remains a problem on a much larger scale,” said Joseph Campbell, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “We hope to build on our success through this national campaign in an effort to reduce the overall threat.”
The campaign includes digital billboards, radio public service announcements, video and social media.
“I can’t stress enough how dangerous and irresponsible it is to point a laser at an aircraft,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We know that targeted enforcement has succeeded in driving down laser incidents in a number of cities, and we’ll continue to partner with law enforcement to address this problem nationwide.”