FBI seeks public’s assistance with identifying people who aim lasers at aircraft

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NEWARK – On Tuesday, the FBI announced a national campaign to deter people from pointing lasers at aircraft, and thanked county agencies for their cooperation in the campaign.

According to an FBI press release, pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal violation that presents a danger to pilots, passengers and those on the ground.

The federal agency is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at an aircraft. The reward is available for 90 days in all 56 FBI field offices throughout the country.

In the release, the FBI noted cooperation and contribution of county agencies to the awareness of the campaign, including: the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, the Federal Air Marshal Service, the New Jersey State Police and the Ocean City Police Department.

In 2011, a Mantua man was fined $1,000, after he pleaded guilty in municipal court to pointing a laser at a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter off the Ocean City Boardwalk. According to published reports in the Ocean City Gazette, the pilot of the helicopter was temporarily blinded by the laser.

In July 2011, City Council in Ocean City voted unanimously to outlaw the sale and possession of high-powered laser pointers.

Last year, North Wildwood City Council banned the sale and possession of laser pointers in the city, saying then that the lasers are often aimed at vessels, aircraft and police officers during the summer.

North Wildwood’s ordinance bans the sale or possession of laser pointers that exceed 1 milliwatt in output power.

In 2005, the FBI joined with the Federal Aviation Administration to address the problem of lasers pointed at airplanes.

According to the FBI, the issue was growing across the country, as more powerful lasers became easier to purchase. From 2005 through 2013, the deliberate targeting of aircrafts by handheld lasers increased by more than 1,100 percent, the FBI said in the release.

These incidents often result in pilots experiencing temporary blindness, which can force them to divert or make emergency landings.

“I can’t stress enough how dangerous and irresponsible it is to point a laser at an aircraft,” said Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator. “We know that targeted enforcement has succeeded in driving down laser incidents in a number of cities, and we’ll continue to partner with law enforcement to address this problem nationwide.”

To report a lasing incident, call the FBI office in Atlantic City at 609-677-6400, or dial 911.

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