San Diego, California - The FBI announced a national campaign to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft, a federal violation that presents danger to pilots, passengers, and those on the ground. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at aircraft. The reward is available for 90 days in all 56 FBI field offices.
Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, data shows a more than 1,100 percent increase in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers.
Since the beginning of 2014, there have been 22 laser strike incidents reported in San Diego. Nationwide there have been a total of 1,280 laser strike incidents reported, which averages to nine incidents per day. In 2013, there were 61 reported laser incidents in San Diego. Nationwide, there were 3,960 laser attacks reported, amounting to an average of 11 incidents per day.
The dramatic increase in reported laser attacks in recent years prompted the FBI to create a pilot program aimed at raising awareness and offering a monetary reward in 12 field offices. Since the launch of the pilot program on February 11, 2014, the major metropolitan areas of the 12 pilot field offices saw a 19 percent decrease in the number of reported incidents.
“Although our previous efforts to raise public awareness have shown early signs of success in reducing the number of laser attacks in those 12 cities, the laser threat remains a problem on a much larger scale,” said Joseph Campbell, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “We hope to build on our success through this national campaign in an effort to reduce the overall threat.”
The FBI is partnering with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Air Line Pilots Association International, law enforcement at all levels nationally and internationally, school resource officers and other stakeholders in its efforts to continue to educate the public about the dangers associated with laser strikes to aircraft. Campaign outreach efforts include digital billboards, radio public service announcements, video, social media, a presence on www.fbi.gov and partner websites, and more.
“I can’t stress enough how dangerous and irresponsible it is to point a laser at an aircraft,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We know that targeted enforcement has succeeded in driving down laser incidents in a number of cities, and we’ll continue to partner with law enforcement to address this problem nationwide.”
FBI analysis shows laser strikes happen most frequently between midnight and 7 a.m.., with the greatest strikes occurring between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. In many cases, laser strikes are being committed by teens and adults between the ages of 35-45. Often, these individuals do not comprehend the serious consequences of lasing and in some cases are unaware it is against the law.
“Intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft poses a serious threat to those in the air and on the ground—and it’s a serious crime with serious consequences,” said Air Line Pilots Association International President Captain Lee Moak. “The Laser Threat Awareness Campaign has resulted in an overall reduction of incidents, and we look forward to continuing to work with the FBI to bring the reach of these efforts.”
Thousands of laser attacks go unreported every year. If you have information about a lasing incident or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call the FBI San Diego Field Office at (858) 320-1800, call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477, or dial 911.