San Antonio Among Top 15 Cities for Laser Strikes Against Aircraft
Local, State, and Federal Agencies Respond; Launch Campaign and Offer Reward
|FBI San Antonio February 11, 2014|
The FBI joined local, state, and federal partners today to announce a campaign and reward program to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft. The San Antonio area ranks among the top 15 cities in the nation in reported air strikes against aircraft. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a violation of state and federal law.
Reported incidents of the state and federal violation are on the rise. Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, statistics reflect a more than 1,100 percent increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers. In 2013, there were a total of 3,960 laser strikes reported—an average of almost 11 incidents per day. Industry experts say laser attacks present potential dangers for pilots.
“Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot, jeopardizing the safety of everyone on board,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We applaud our colleagues at the Justice Department for aggressively prosecuting aircraft laser incidents, and we will continue to use civil penalties to further deter this dangerous activity.”
In San Antonio, there were 50 laser strikes reported in 2013, which is a 47 percent increase from 2012. In 2013, 48 laser strikes were reported in Austin, and 25 were reported in McAllen. Both Austin and McAllen are covered by the San Antonio FBI Division.
FBI analysis shows laser strikes happen most frequently between midnight and 7 a.m., with the greatest strikes occurring between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. In many cases, laser strikes are being committed by teens and adults between the ages of 35-45. Most do not comprehend the serious consequences of lasing and, in some cases, are unaware it is against the law.
“Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law,” said Ron Hosko, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions.”
In February 2012, President Barrack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and added a new prevision that makes it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. On the state level, violators may also be charged with illuminating aircraft with laser point.
In an effort to raise public awareness about the issue, San Antonio FBI is launching a targeted reward program. Beginning today, for a 60-day period, the program will offer a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at an aircraft. A similar reward program will also be offered in 12 other cities across the country.
Clear Channel Outdoor will publish billboards across the San Antonio area to educate the public about the dangers and penalties associated with laser pointers aimed at aircraft. The company is donating space and time on their digital billboards throughout the area as a public service to the community. Public Service Announcements will also air on radio stations in San Antonio, Austin, McAllen, and other cities across the country. In addition, the FBI and its initiative partners will be working to educate teens and young adults about the dangers associated with lasing.
Thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year. If you have information about a lasing incident, contact the San Antonio FBI at 210-225-6741. If you see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call the nearest local law enforcement agency immediately by dialing 911. Tips can also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov.
Under federal law, knowingly aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a felony offense, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under Texas state law, illuminating aircraft with a laser is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine.
The FBI partnered with the San Antonio Airport System to launch today’s event at San Antonio International Airport along with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, United States Attorney’s Office-Western District of Texas, Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, San Antonio Police Department, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, Transportation and Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Airline Pilots Association, and Clear Channel Outdoor.