The FBI has announced a national campaign to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft, a federal violation that can result in fines and/or imprisonment.
To report a laser incident
If you have information about a laser incident, or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call the local FBI office at 881-0194 or dial 911. For more information, go to fbi.gov.
The agency 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.
Lasers often result in temporary blindness, which forces pilots to divert or make emergency landings. They also can lead to loss of aircraft control and possibly death. About 95 percent of laser strikes last year were caused by green lasers, which are the most readily available and most often used to point at aircraft, according to the FBI.
Since the agency and the Federal Aviation Administration began tracking laser strikes in 2005, incidents of deliberately targeting aircraft by people with handheld lasers have spiked 1,100 percent.
Last year, 3,960 laser strikes were reported, about 500 more than in 2012. The number has risen dramatically since 311 reported incidents in 2005. Many more laser incidents go unreported, according to the FBI.
In South Carolina, 127 incidents were reported in 2012, 31 in 2013 and eight so far this year through May 15, according to Denise Taiste, spokeswoman for the FBI in Columbia.
The dramatic increase in national laser attacks in recent years prompted the FBI to create a pilot program in February 2012 aimed at raising awareness and offering a monetary reward in 12 field offices. Those areas have seen a 19 percent decrease in the number of reported incidents, the FBI said.
"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 FAA, the Air Line Pilots Association International, law enforcement at all levels nationally and internationally, school resource officers and others to educate the public about the dangers of laser strikes on aircraft.
"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."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.