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 in all 56 FBI field offices.
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 field offices, including San Antonio. 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.
In 2013, there were 142 reported laser attacks in cities throughout the San Antonio Division, to include San Antonio, Austin, Waco, McAllen, Brownsville, Harlingen, and Laredo. As of May 16, 2014, there were only 34 reported laser attacks during 2014, demonstrating a monthly rate of 6.8 laser attacks compared to nearly 12 a month in 2013.
“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.”
San Antonio FBI is committed to working with our state and local law enforcement officers to increase public awareness regarding the dangers of laser attacks and will continue to investigate and refer laser attack cases for prosecution.
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. All tipsters will remain anonymous.
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 laser point is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine.