FBI Charlotte
Public Affairs Specialist Shelley Lynch
(704) 672-6766
June 12, 2014

FBI Campaign to Stop Laser Strikes Expands to North Carolina

The Charlotte Division of the FBI is announcing a campaign and reward program to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a violation of state and federal law. In 2013, there were 68 reported laser incidents in North Carolina. There were 20 incidents across the state through May 15, 2014; six of those happened in Charlotte.

The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005. Last year, 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.”

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, the FBI is launching a targeted reward program. Through September 3, 2014, 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 is already being offered in 12 other cities across the country.

Adams Outdoor Advertising will publish billboards across the Charlotte 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 digital billboards throughout the area as a public service to the community.

Thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year. If you have information about a lasing incident, contact FBI Charlotte at 704-672-6100. 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.