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SAN FRANCISCO: Federal authorities are hoping the public will act as whistle-blowers in an attempt to stop people from pointing lasers at commercial airplanes.
Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, statistics show a more than 1,100 percent increase in the deliberate act of targeting aircraft from the ground with handheld lasers.
In an effort to combat the problem the FBI has launched a targeted regional reward program, which will run for 60 days in 12 FBI field offices.
As part of the pilot program, a reward of up to $10,000 will be available for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who takes part in the act.
The FBI said they will also be working with state and local law enforcement to educate teens about the dangers associated with lasing.
“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.
“It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions,” he added.
ELEVEN STRIKES DAILY
In 2013, there were a total of 3,960 laser strikes reported. That's an average of almost 11 incidents per day, and Industry experts say laser attacks can present a potentially serious situation for pilots.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said that shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot and therefore jeopardize the safety of everyone on board.
“We applaud our colleagues at the Justice Department for aggressively prosecuting aircraft laser incidents, and we will continue to use civil penalties to further deter this dangerous activity,” Huerta said.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) also condemned the act of laser pointing. The group's International President, Captain Lee Moak said: "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”.
“Since ALPA successfully urged lawmakers to make laser illuminations on aircraft a specific federal crime, laser targeting of aircraft is now a violation of both federal and civil laws with real penalties, and we will advocate for our FBI and FAA partners to vigorously pursue anyone who misuses these devices.”
Thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year. In fact numbers have almost doubles in some of the region's airports. San Jose International Airport saw 63 laser incidents last year. That's in comparison with 33 in 2012. Oakland International Airport also strikes almost double from 22 to 43. While reported strikes from San Francisco International Airport indicate a lesser increase from 33 in 2012 to 38 last 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.
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