Feds crack down on airplane laser pointer attacks

FRESNO, Calif.

The number of laser hits reached an all-time high last year in the U.S. According to the (FAA), it happened nearly four thousand times. Fresno is on the list of top cities, ranking at 32 with 26 incidents. The top city was Portland Oregon with 139 incidents.

The FBI says it's teaming up with the FAA because these numbers keep rising and the safety of the pilots and people on the ground is at stake.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is already a felony - one that could get you five years in prison.

But now the federal government is taking extra steps to track down the people doing it.

"This is very serious and the FBI is treating it as such," said John Kitzinger, FBI Violent Crime.

Tuesday the FBI announced a new program offering up to a $10,000 dollar rewards to anyone with information that leads to an arrest of someone who lasered a plane.

Officials say that more than ten times every day, pilots landing their aircraft encounter laser pointers. That approach is the most critical phase of the flight. And these pen sized laser pointers can light up the cockpit and possibly blind the pilots. The FAA said there have been at least 35 incidents where pilots required medical attention after a laser strike.

Every year there are more and more laser hits. In 2012 there were 3,400, last year 3,900, and an all-time high. And it's estimated that thousands more go unreported.

Officials say this new crackdown is a matter of public safety. "It's not just the danger to the pilots as well as the passengers, but to the people on the ground," said Kitzinger.

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