It happens about once a month in Western New York. Someone, either innocently or maliciously, points a laser at an airplane flying above.
The FBI wants you to know it’s no schoolyard prank and they’re now going to great lengths – billboards, radio ads and $10,000 rewards – to find the people doing it.
Brian P. Boetig, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Buffalo, said the effort is part of a national campaign to stop people from pointing lasers at airplanes, an action that can put pilots, passengers and those on the ground at risk.
“Local lasing complaints in Western New York for the years 2012, 2013, and 2014 totaled 33 incidents,” Boetig said in a statement Tuesday.
The incidents were reported at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, site of a FBI news conference Tuesday, and in Rochester, Jamestown, and Niagara Falls.
The number of incidents here is much lower than other areas of the country – the FBI office in Buffalo ranks 52nd out of 56 offices in reported incidents – but that doesn’t lessen the danger behind lasers.
“While aiming a laser pointer into the sky at an aircraft might seem harmless, it’s anything but,” said NFTA Police Chief George W. Gast. “Not only are such actions a violation of federal law that will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, they can result in deadly consequences.”
The FBI and FAA, which have been tracking laser strikes since 2005, says the number of deliberate strikes by people with handheld lasers has increased 1,100 percent.
To help reduce those strikes, the FBI is offering rewards of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at an airplane. It also plans to use digital billboards, radio public service announcements, video and social media to educate the public.
In addition, anyone with information about a lasing incident is asked to call the FBI in Buffalo at 856-7800.