Who knew that so many people were pointing lasers at airplanes?
Since 2012, pointing lasers at airplanes (or as the Federal Bureau of Investigation calls it "lasing aircraft") is a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.
And since about four months ago, the FBI has been rewarding people for providing information on any known instances of intentional laser pointing.
Starting now, the FBI is taking that pilot program nationwide.
“Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law, said Joe Campbell, assistant director of our Criminal Investigative Division. “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.”
How effective? Well, pretty. When the FBI began this pay-to-report program, they offered it in cities where laser strikes against aircraft were particularly prevalent. This included cities like Chicago, Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Now, according to the FBI, there has been a 19 percent decrease in reported "laser strikes" in those areas.
It might shock you to learn that a laser beam from your little keychain laser pointer can reach more than a mile, and in severe cases can enter a plane's cockpit and temporarily blind the pilots. In 2013, there were a reported 3,960 laser strikes against aircraft. The FBI says that these laser strikes have been described as "a camera going off in a dark room." You can see why this is a problem.
“We want to encourage people to come forward when they see someone committing this crime, which could have terrible consequences for pilots and their passengers,” said federal air marshal George Johnson.
To claim that reward (which can be as much as $10,000), the info you provide the FBI must lead to an arrest.
The FBI's slogan for the campaign says "Here's a pointer: don't let a prank lead to prison."
Image via FBI, YouTube