FBI Launches National Campaign to Address Laser Threat to Aircraft
The FBI today announced a national campaign to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft, a federal violation that presents danger to pilots, passengers, and those on the ground. 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 aircraft. The reward is available for 90 days for in all 56 field offices.
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.”
“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.”
In Indianapolis, there were 65 laser strikes reported in 2013, which is a 47 percent increase from 2012.
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 to 45. Most do not comprehend the serious consequences of lasing and, in some cases, are unaware it is against the law.
In February 2012, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and added a new provision 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.
Thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year. If you have information about a lasing incident, contact the Indianapolis FBI at (317) 595-4000. 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.