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. 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. 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 in all 56 FBI field offices.
“It is important that people understand that aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Johnson of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office. “FBI Pittsburgh and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners are committed to locating, identifying, and arresting individuals who threaten aviation safety.”
Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, data shows a more than 1,100 percent increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers.
The dramatic increase in reported laser attacks in recent years prompted the FBI to create a pilot program aimed at raising awareness and offering a monetary reward in 12 of the FBI’s 56 field offices. Since the launch of the pilot program on February 11, 2014, the major metropolitan areas of those 12 field offices have seen a 19 percent decrease in the number of reported incidents.
“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 FBI is partnering with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Air Line Pilots Association International, law enforcement at all levels nationally and internationally, school resource officers, and other stakeholders in its efforts to continue to educate the public about the dangers associated with laser strikes to aircraft. Campaign outreach efforts include digital billboards, radio public service announcements, video, social media, a presence on www.fbi.gov and partner websites, and more.
“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.”
“Intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft poses a serious threat to those in the air and on the ground—and it’s a serious crime with serious consequences,” said Air Line Pilots Association International President Captain Lee Moak. “The Laser Threat Awareness Campaign has resulted in an overall reduction of incidents, and we look forward to continuing to work with the FBI on these efforts.”
Thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year. If you have information about a lasing incident or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call FBI Pittsburgh at 412-432-4000 or dial 911.