(WASHINGTON D.C.) - The FBI Tuesday announced a national campaign to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft, a federal violation which 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.
"The expansion of this campaign will promote greater awareness and understanding of the threat that lasing poses to pilots and the public," said Dallas FBI Special Agent in Charge, Diego Rodriguez.
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. 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 the Dallas Division territory, there were 90 laser strikes reported in 2013. Laser strike reporting for 2013 in other Texas Divisions was: El Paso – 25; Houston – 155; and San Antonio – 149. 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.
In February 2012, President Barrack 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.
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.
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.
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.