As part of a crackdown against people who point lasers at airplanes, the FBI will give out rewards of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest, agency officials said Tuesday at an LAX press conference.
It’s a pilot program and will last only for 60 days at 12 FBI field offices, including Los Angeles.
FBI and FAA officials say there were 3,960 laser strikes reported in 2013, though they say many strikes go unreported. The lasers can temporarily blind pilots, impacting their ability to control planes and helicopters.
“As a pilot, I’m concerned about this issue,” said Chief Ted Sexton of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homeland security division. “When we’re flying helicopters, it’s about like taking two plates and balancing them as you ride a unicycle. You have to have extreme focus on what you are doing.”
Bill Lewis, assistant director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said he hopes the FBI’s short-term campaign will teach the public about the dangers of lasers.
“While there are legitimate reasons for lasers, pointing them at aircraft is not one of them,” Lewis said. “Through this publicity campaign, we are hoping to change the mindset of those who think this this is merely a prank. In reality, the act of pointing a laser at an airplane or at a helicopter can temporarily blind the pilot, during critical phases of operations — during takeoff, during landing — when they have to have complete and very dedicated focus on what they are doing.”