NationNation Now

FBI's $10,000 reward seeks to curb cases of laser flashing at aircraft

CrimeFBIFederal Aviation Administration
FBI reports major increase in "laser attacks" on planes, offers $10,000 reward for arrests
Federal officials say they have seen early success with efforts to reduce cases of flashing lasers at aircraft

Citing a massive increase in reports of illegal flashing of lasers toward aircraft, the FBI said Tuesday it would expand a program that offers a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrests in connection with the "dangerous and irresponsible" incidents.

Reports of people pointing lasers at aircraft have ballooned nationwide, jumping from 384 in 2006 to 3,960 in 2013, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Aware of that increase and the danger posed to pilots and travelers by lasers, the FBI began offering rewards for information leading to arrests in the 12 cities that frequently saw the most incidents.

Los Angeles and Sacramento were both involved in that February pilot program, which lasted for 60 days, but federal officials said Tuesday they needed to address the problem on a national scale.

"Although our previous efforts to raise public awareness have shown early signs of success in reducing the number of laser attacks in those 12 cities, the laser threat remains a problem on a much larger scale," Joseph Campbell, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in a news release. "We hope to build on our success through this national campaign in an effort to reduce the overall threat."

The rewards will be available for the next 90 days, the FBI said. Those convicted of pointing a laser at an aircraft could face up to five years in federal prison, said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Los Angeles office.

California often leads the country in reports of flashing lasers at aircraft, Eimiller said. Federal records also show the number of reported incidents have increased in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego and Oakland from 2011 to 2013.

Eimiller said the reward, and recent successful prosecutions, could help reduce the number of incidents. This year, a 31-year-old Boyle Heights man appeared in court to answer charges that he flashed a laser at a Los Angeles County sheriff's helicopter in November. A Colorado man pleaded guilty to a similar crime last year.

Nationwide, the FBI investigated 152 reported laser incidents involving aircraft in 2012 and 2013. The agency took enforcement action against suspects in 96 of those cases.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for more breaking news

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
CrimeFBIFederal Aviation Administration
  • White House intruder arrested after entering front doors
    White House intruder arrested after entering front doors

    An intruder scaled a White House fence and made it all the way into the building Friday evening before he was caught and wrestled to the ground by security officers, the Secret Service said. President Obama and his family had already left for Camp David when the incident occurred.

  • Man who killed daughter and grandchildren had violent past
    Man who killed daughter and grandchildren had violent past

    Don Spirit, a Florida grandfather who fatally shot his daughter Sarah Lorraine Spirit and six grandchildren before killing himself, had a long history of domestic violence — at one point pushing his pregnant daughter against a refrigerator and assaulting and threatening his former...

  • Rain pounds Texas: A sign the drought is ending?
    Rain pounds Texas: A sign the drought is ending?

    In Texas, where the governor once urged the public to pray for rain, this week’s torrential storms might finally be a sign of lasting relief for the state plagued by years of drought. Or maybe not.

  • For many in Congress, a first test on issues of war
    For many in Congress, a first test on issues of war

    Lawmakers' votes this week on whether or not to train and equip Syrian opposition forces in the fight against Islamic State were arguably the most consequential after nearly two years in which Congress is likely to set a new low for productivity.

  • Egyptian militant admits links to 1998 U.S. embassy bombings

    A longtime Egyptian militant with ties to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden admitted in federal court Friday that he had links to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, a surprise guilty plea that the judge sharply questioned because it reduces his prison time from a potential life sentence to...

  • Four takeaways from the vote in Congress to arm Syrian rebels
    Four takeaways from the vote in Congress to arm Syrian rebels

    What was supposed to be a no-drama final session of Congress before the campaign season turned into anything but as President Obama's new strategy to combat the threat from Islamic State resulted in a wrenching vote that is likely to reverberate through the midterm election and...