BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Danger in the skies. The FBI cracks down on people who shine laser pointers at planes, blinding pilots midair. The agency is offering $10,000 rewards nationwide for anyone who reports a laser attack.
Christie Ileto explains how they’re getting the word out.
The FBI is shining the spotlight on a dangerous prank that can blind pilots or even cause a crash. Soon, you will be hearing and seeing PSAs on the radio and at movie theaters as a way for the Feds to crack down on laser attacks on aircraft.
“In 2013, there were 3,960 reported laser strikes of aircraft,” said Marion Ritzman, FBI.
The FBI says since 2005, there’s been a more than 1,100 percent increase in the number of laser strikes.
“I saw a bright light out of the corner of my eye,” said Captain Jeff Long, Sky Eye Chopper 13.
Long says it happened to him while flying over Washington, D.C. a couple years ago. He immediately thought:
“I’m not only going to lose sight of all these instruments, which are important, but I could lose sight of what’s happening outside,” he said.
Earlier this year, the FBI launched the nationwide crackdown in 12 U.S. cities. But with reported incidents dropping, the program is now expanding to all 50 states.
It’s no secret the dangers associated with laser strikes. In 2012, an FAA report showed those types of incidents happened more than 50 times to pilots in Maryland.
A recent WJZ investigation revealed Maryland State Police pilots are also targeted. Still, thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year–another reason the Feds say their warning is no joke.
Since 2005, 141 people have been arrested — 84 of them convicted–for this offense.
The penalty for pointing a laser pointer at an aircraft includes up to five years in prison and fines as high as $250,000.
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