Laser technology has made the tiny beams of concentrated light available to anyone cheaply, sometimes even via your local drugstore. It has also led to a dangerous rise in people pointing them at airplanes, which can temporarily blind a pilot and put the hundreds of people on board at risk, the FBI said Tuesday.
As a result, federal officials are now offering up to a $10,000 reward as part of a pilot program in 12 FBI field offices for tips that lead to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at an aircraft.
“Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in a press release. “It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions.”
The FAA said there 1,100 percent increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers since they began keeping track of the incidents in 2005. In 2013, there were a total of 3,960 laser strikes reported, an average of almost 11 incidents per day.
“The risk associated with illegal and inappropriate laser illuminations is unacceptable. Pointing lasers at aircraft in flight poses a serious safety risk to the traveling public,” said Air Line Pilots Association International President Captain Lee Moak.
FBI field offices participating in the regional reward program are Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan, and the Washington Field Office.