June 3, 2014

Partners Seek Public Assistance in Protecting Aircraft from Lasers

The Seattle Division is partnering with the Port of Seattle Police Department to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft, a federal violation that presents danger to pilots, passengers, and those on the ground. Today, field offices across the nation are engaged in the same campaign. 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, nicknamed “lasing.”

In 2014 so far, the FBI has received reports of 32 incidents of lasing experienced by aircraft in Washington State, 19 of those near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

While 19 is fortunately not as high as the number of incidents experienced during that same time period near airports in the areas of Los Angeles (139) or San Francisco (94), incidents near Seattle exceeded those near Portland (13) and and New York City (14). This is significant given that Portland and New York City experienced more lasing in all of 2013 than Seattle (139 and 99, compared to 47).

Nearby City 2013 Lasing Incidents January to May 2014 Lasing Incidents
Seattle 47 19
Portland 139 13
New York 99 14
Los Angeles 342 139
San Francisco 203 94

While a single individual can account for a large number of lasing, every incident poses a serious risk to the safety of airline pilots and passengers. The large number of incidents in just five months of 2014 leads the Seattle Division and Port of Seattle Police Department to participate in the national campaign to stop this criminal activity.

A pilot version of this campaign began in February 2014 with 12 field offices, and, since then, 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 your local FBI field office or dial 911.