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FBI warns of threat posed to aircraft by laser pointers

Ashley Hirtzel

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of anyone who aims a laser pointer at an aircraft.

The FBI in Buffalo is participating in the national campaign that aims to deter people from pointing lasers at airplanes and spreads awareness that the act is a serious federal crime.

Special Agent in Charge Brian Boetig says over the last three years, there have been 33 reported cases of laser strikes on small and large aircraft. He says the numbers include incidents at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and in Rochester, Jamestown and Niagara Falls. The incidents have also involved emergency services aircraft.

“The reason it’s so important is because the laser pointers, when they hit the cockpit, can be blinding to the pilots, cause them to be disrupted, and could cause a major air catastrophe. So, we’re just trying to prevent that. The laser pointers are very common. School kids have them, parents have them, and they are lying around the house. If people don’t know that it’s federal offense, they may think it’s fun or exciting to see if they can touch an aircraft when it’s flying by,” said Boetig.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
Officials with the FBI, NFTA, FAA and TSA join together to announce the national campaign that aims to address the treat of lasers to aircraft.

NFTA Transit Police Chief George Gast says the lasing incidents are serious federal offense punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“It is a very serious federal crime. So if these incidents do take place we’re going to aggressively investigate them and we’re going to aggressively solicit prosecution of the individuals involved,” said Gast.

Botieg says since the launch of reward campaign this past February there has been a decrease in the number of reported incidents by 19 percent nationwide. The $10,000 reward will be available for 90 days in all FBI field offices across the country, including the field office in Buffalo.