FBI launches program to educate the public about dangers of pointing lasers at aircraft

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Laser strikes against aircraft have been on the rise over the years, and the FBI wants to put an end to the dangerous problem.

“It’s truly reckless behavior that can have a high cost,” said Gina Swankie, Public Affairs Specialist for the FBI in Sacramento.

On Tuesday, the FBI launched a nationwide program to raise awareness about the consequences of laser strikes.

"When you're down on the ground it seems relatively low impact, but when you're up in a cockpit it can have serious consequences, can impair vision temporarily or even permanently,” said Swankie.

Swankie told 23ABC the goal is to educate the public about the impacts of laser strikes on aircraft, and hopefully more people will understand why pointing a laser at an aircraft is so dangerous.

“The concern is that while we haven’t had an aircraft incident thus far, the risk is there so that is very concerning,” said Swankie.

Deputy Sheriff John McAdoo told 23ABC he has been a helicopter pilot for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office for the past four years. McAdoo says part of his job is to track down the source of the laser strike when they get a report of one and often times it is a child who may not understand the consequences of shining a laser at an aircraft.

"I've had quite a few incidents where someone is striking us with a laser, we put ground units on it and they go investigate and it's an 8 or 10-year-old kid,” said Deputy Sheriff McAdoo.

McAdoo also told 23ABC, laser strikes happen in a cycle and there is no rhyme or reason to them.

“Sometimes we go months without, and other times we have a few a week,” said McAdoo.

Still, one is one too many for the FBI.

"Aiming a laser at an aircraft is reckless. There is no good intention behind it,” said Swankie.

Swankie said there has been 11 laser incidents in Kern County so far this year. 

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is also a federal offense. The FBI is asking the public to report anyone who is pointing lasers at aircrafts. The FBI is expanding its reward program and offering up to $10,000 for any information that leads to an arrest. The reward money will be available for the next 90 days.

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