Feb. 11, 2014— -- The FBI is launching a new campaign aimed at people who focus potentially-blinding lasers at airplanes.
The inexpensive pen-sized pointers can hit a target miles away, temporarily blinding a pilot during takeoffs and landings.
The number of nationwide laser hits is climbing each year, the Federal Aviation Administration says, from 2,200 incidents in 2010 to 3,400 in 2012 to 3,900 in 2013, an all-time high. That’s more than 10 incidents every day across the country.
As a result of the increase, the FBI will announce a $10,000 reward for anyone reporting someone who points a laser at a plane.
The FBI’s crackdown will focus on specific cities with the largest number of laser hits – including Houston, Phoenix and Los Angeles, and Portland, Ore.
Since the primary culprits have been identified as young males, the government is also launching an educational campaign aimed at teens.
FBI agent John Kitzinger said the crime could have deep impacts for innocent passengers and residents.
“It’s not just the danger to the pilots as well as the passengers, but to the people on the ground,” Kitzinger said.
Flashing a laser at an airplane is a felony, punishable by up to five years in federal prison.