FBI Offers $10K Reward for Arrests for Laser Pointer Crimes

For the next 90 days, the bureau's 56 field offices are offering the rewards

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Silence your cellphone. Save the movie commentary for later. And if you know someone who aims a laser pointer at an airplane, give us a call.

    A new FBI campaign unveiled Tuesday will place public safety messages during movie previews and is offering rewards of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who threatens aircraft in a laser attack.

    The effort builds on a pilot program launched in February in a dozen cities, including Chicago, Houston, New York, Phoenix and Washington.

    Pair Charged With Pointing Laser at Plane

    [CHI] Pair Charged With Pointing Laser at Plane
    Chicago's O'Hare International Airport ranks second in the country in terms of the number of laser events reported by the FAA in 2010.

    For the next 90 days, the bureau's 56 field offices are offering the rewards.

    Federal officials said the deliberate targeting of planes by people with handheld lasers has increased significantly in recent years. In 2005, when the FBI and Federal Aviation Administration began tracking such crimes, fewer than 300 laser attacks occurred. By last year, that number had increased to nearly 4,000, according to the FAA.

    "It's usually young people horsing around," said Edward Reinhold, acting special agent in charge of the FBI's St. Louis office. "They're just unaware of (the dangers)."

    In the Midwest, the campaign will be bolstered by messages shown during movie previews at Wehrenberg Theatres, which owns theaters in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri. A company executive said Tuesday that the chain is working with the National Association of Theatre Owners to possibly expand the announcements beyond its markets.

    "Here's a pointer," the public service announcement reads. "Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime."

    Sgt. Dan Cunningham, a helicopter pilot with the St. Louis County Police Department, said he's been "lased" numerous times in recent years by powerful beams that can be seen from nearly 1 mile away.

    "I don't know that anybody realizes how much of an effect it has on an aircraft," he said. "It completely blinds you."

    Such safety concerns led Illinois officials in 2010 to make it illegal to aim a laser at an airplane's cockpit.

    The following year, a man and a woman were charged after police said they pointed a laser at a plane near Midway Airport.

    A few months later, three people were charged after they allegedly pointed a laser at a police helicopter while on top of a building in Old Town.

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