FBI Expands Anti-Laser Effort
After a successful trial program aimed at deterring people from pointing lasers at aircraft, the FBI announced on Tuesday it is expanding the campaign nationwide. "Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law," said Joe Campbell, assistant director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division. "The public awareness campaign we launched in February has been effective in reducing the number of incidents, and our hope in expanding the program is that people will think twice about illegally using these devices." A key part of the campaign is reward money. The FBI is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft. Twelve FBI field offices took part in the trial program, which started about four months ago, and they reported a total 19 percent decrease in the number of reported laser incidents in those regions.
When aimed at an aircraft, the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots, the FBI said. As of last December, the FAA had documented at least 35 incidents where pilots required medical attention after a laser strike. Last year, 3,960 laser strikes against aircraft were reported. In 2012, a new law made it a felony to knowingly point the beam of a laser at an aircraft. The law lowered the threshold for prosecution, Johnson said, "and the trend is on the rise for jail time in these cases."