FBI Expands Laser Education Program

Trial program succeeds in reducing laser pointer incidents.

Laser Pointer Aircraft

Laser Pointer Aircraft

Courtesy of FAA

After a trial program, which was limited to 60 days and 12 FBI field offices, the FBI has expanded its lasing program nationwide to prevent debilitating injuries to pilots as a result of powerful handheld lasers directed toward aircraft. The program aims to limit these kinds of incidents by educating the public about the dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft and by encouraging witnesses of these kinds of incidents to step forward through rewards of up to $10,000 for tips that lead to an arrest.

After the trial program was initiated, laser pointer incidents have dropped by 19 percent in the metropolitan areas where the program was introduced, the FBI said.

Pointing a laser beam toward an aircraft became a federal crime in 2012. Pilots experiencing these kinds of incidents have not only suffered from temporary blindness and disorientation, but in some cases have required medical attention. Punishments for these kinds of offenses are severe. In March, a 26-year-old man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for pointing a high-power laser at a police helicopter.

"Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law," said Joe Campbell, assistant director of the criminal investigative division of the FBI. "The public awareness campaign we launched in February has been effective in reducing the number of incidents, and our hope in expanding the program is that people will think twice about illegally using these devices."

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