The FBI has launched a 90-day nationwide campaign offering rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of people who point lasers at aircraft.
The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking incidents in which people deliberately targeted aircraft with handheld lasers, known as “lasing,” and found more than 1,000-percent increase over the past nine years, according to the FBI.
Over the past year and a half, there have been 66 lasing incidents reported near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; 481 in Los Angeles; and 297 in San Francisco, according to the FBI.
The FBI, FAA and the Air Line Pilots Association International say that every incident poses a serious risk to the safety of airline pilots, passengers and people on the ground. Pilots say the laser light produces a flash similar to that of a camera when it hits the cockpit, illuminating the inside of the cabin in blinding flashes and occasionally causing permanent damage to the pilots’ eyes.
Lasing is a federal felony offense and carries penalties of up to five years in prison and potential fines of up to a $10,000, according to Ayn S. Dietrich, a spokeswoman for the FBI Seattle Division.
“People might think this activity is a joke,” said Dietrich, “but it really is not. Pilots have been literally blinded and some have had their eyesight permanently damaged.”
Despite some high-profile prosecutions for lasing, including one that netted a California man 14 years in prison, officials said thousands of laser attacks still go unreported every year.
The reward is intended to combat that trend.
The FBI is encouraging anyone with information about a lasing incident to call their local FBI field office or dial 911. The Seattle field office can be reached at 206-622-0460, or firstname.lastname@example.org