FBI targets use of lasers to distract planes - KCTV5

FBI targets use of lasers to distract planes

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

Silence your cell phone. 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 targets the illegal use of laser pointers to distract airplanes. For the next 90 days, the bureau's 56 field offices are offering $10,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest of anyone who threatens aircraft in a laser attack.

Federal officials say the deliberate targeting of planes by people with handheld lasers has increased significantly since 2005, when the FBI and Federal Aviation Administration began tracking such crimes.

This comes after someone pointed a laser at a plane at Kansas City International Airport just last week.

In the Midwest, the campaign will be bolstered by public safety messages shown during movie previews at Wehrenberg Theatres, which owns theaters in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri.

The FBI says offenders may think it's a joke, but it's a really serious matter.

Chopper5 pilot Capt. Gregg Bourdon said it's a surprise distraction that pilots don't need.

"It's more like a burst of light that comes at you," he said.

It's likened to driving down a dark road in your vehicle and someone fires a camera flash in your face.

Nationally, there are nine reports every day of lasers being pointed in a pilot's eyes. In California, a man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for a laser strike.

"If you're engaged in this type of behavior, you need to stop it. If you know somebody that's doing it, you need to tell them to stop it," Michael Kaste, special agent in charge of the Kansas City FBI office, said Tuesday. "And if you witness this, you need to report it to us."

Bourdon hopes the campaign is successful in raising awareness about how dangerous laser strikes are.

"A lot of people just don't understand the intensity of that laser when it hits the aircraft," he said.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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