The FBI is tired of people intentionally pointing lasers at airplanes and helicopters, and it's willing to pay top dollar to find those responsible. Today, FBI officials announced regional rewards of up to $10,000 for information that directly leads to the arrest of anyone who purposefully aims a laser at an aircraft. It's a felony punishable by five years in prison, yet remains a growing problem according to authorities; 3,960 "laser strikes" were reported last year.
Despite the tiny size of most handheld laser pointers, their beams of light can travel more than a mile and suddenly illuminate a cockpit, which can disorient (and in some cases temporarily blind) pilots. Using these devices irresponsibly can put everyone on board an aircraft in danger. "Those who have been subject to such attacks have described them as the equivalent of a camera flash going off in a pitch black car at night," the FBI said in a statement.
Officials have been warning the public about this dangerous and illegal practice for years now, but they're stepping up those efforts with today's initiative. It's slated to run for 60 days in 12 FBI offices "where laser strikes against aircraft are prevalent." That includes Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan, and the Washington Field Office. Aside from the reward money, the FBI also plans to better educate teenagers about the dangers of "lasing." Pilots have required some sort of medical attention in at least 35 laser-strike incidents as of December.