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South Texas ranked among highest in nation for laser pointing at aircraft

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Local businesses are working with law enforcement officials to deter the federal crime of pointing lasers at aircraft.

The FBI ranks San Antonio among the top U.S. cities in reported air strikes against aircraft. “Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot, jeopardizing the safety of everyone on board,” said Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Michael Huerta. “We applaud our colleagues at the Justice Department for aggressively prosecuting aircraft laser incidents, and we will continue to use civil penalties to further deter this dangerous activity.”

Clear Channel Outdoor is donating and placing education information on their billboards across the San Antonio area to inform about the dangers and penalties linked with laser pointers aimed at aircraft.

In a Justice Department campaign, Public Service Announcements are airing on radio stations in San Antonio, Austin, McAllen, and other cities across the country.

FBI and FAA report a 1,100 percent increase “in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers,” an FBI report states. “In 2013, there were a total of 3,960 laser strikes reported—an average of almost 11 incidents per day. Industry experts say laser attacks present potential dangers for pilots.”

Last year, San Antonio reported 50 laser strikes, a 47 percent increase over 2012. In 2013, 48 laser strikes were reported in Austin, and 25 were reported in McAllen. Both Austin and McAllen are covered by the San Antonio FBI Division.

“FBI analysis shows laser strikes happen most frequently between midnight and 7 a.m., with the greatest strikes occurring between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.,” an FBI information release indicated. “In many cases, laser strikes are being committed by teens and adults between the ages of 35-45.”

“Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law,” said Ron Hosko, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions.”

San Antonio FBI has launched a targeted reward program for the next 60 days offering “a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at an aircraft. A similar reward program will also be offered in 12 other cities across the country.”

If you have information about a lasing incident, contact the San Antonio FBI at 210-225-6741. If you see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call the nearest local law enforcement agency immediately by dialing 911. Tips can also be submitted online at https://tips.fbi.gov.

Under federal law, knowingly aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a felony offense, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under Texas state law, illuminating aircraft with a laser is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine.

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