The FBI announced a new program Tuesday, offering a reward of up to $10,000 for tips that lead to the arrest of anyone who points a laser at aircraft.
Officials said that more than ten times every day, pilots landing their aircraft encounter laser pointers. When aimed at an aircraft from the ground, the powerful beam of light from the laser can light up a the cockpit and possibly blind the pilots, and endanger passengers.
"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. "This is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions."
The number of cases of people shining lasers into cockpits has been on the rise since the FBI began tracking them in 2005. Last year alone, 3,960 cases were reported and it's estimated that thousands of attacks go unreported every year.
“Laser pointers are legal and certainly have legitimate uses,” said George Johnson, a federal air marshal who serves as a liaison officer with the bureau on laser issues. “Used in the wrong environment, however, they can be very dangerous.”
The new initiative will include an educational campaign to warn the public about the dangers of "lasing." The campaign will run for 60 days in 12 FBI field offices where laser strikes are prevalent, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Under federal law, pointing a laser at an aircraft is punishable by up to five years in prison, the FBI said.