Federal agents Tuesday began offering rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone pointing lasers into the cockpits of aircraft.
Encouraged by a 19-percent decrease in so-called “laseing” incidents since launching a reward program in 12 field offices in February, the Federal Bureau of Investigation today announced it is taking the program nationwide for 90 days.
Last year, pilots reported 3,960 incidents of lasers intruding into their cockpits, an increase from just 384 such incidents in 2006, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Pilots report being blinded at least temporarily, and experts say vision damage can be permanent, when lasers enter the eye.
In South Florida, the FAA said, 116 laser incidents were reported Lin 2013.
Last year, at least three people were arrested in Miami-Dade County on charges of aiming a laser at an aircraft.
They included a teenage high school student in Northwest Dade and a 63-year-old former bank executive from Coral Gables, who was accused of shining the beam from his oceanfront condominium penthouse in Surfside.
Both entered into pretrial diversion programs that, once completed successfully, allowed them to avoid a conviction.
The federal crime carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.