The FBI is increasing the reward it offers witnesses who help them stop laser pointer attacks against airplanes.
The agency will offer $10,000 to anyone who helps agents arrest people who aim pointers toward aircraft in the sky in the Washington, D.C. area. A recent News4 I-Team investigation revealed more than 110 laser pointer strikes against planes headed into Reagan National, Dulles and BWI airports in 2012 and 2013.
The FBI reports nearly 4,000 such incidents nationwide.
The FBI's Washington, D.C. field office special agent-in-charge for criminal investigations Tim Gallagher said laser pointers are particularly dangerous for pilots. Gallagher said a laser beam can obstruct pilots’ vision in the cockpit.
Physicians say the beams are particularly dangerous during nighttime flights, when pilots use visual aids to enhance light.
Gallagher said federal investigators have arrested approximately five percent of the people suspected of pointing laser beams at aircraft. He said the agency is hoping to lure more witnesses by offering the cash reward.
“These are challenging cases," he said. "Your witnesses are pilots and flight crews, who are temporarily disoriented by the actual strike itself.”
Baltimore County Police helicopter pilot Hobart Wolf is among the local victims of laser pointer strikes. Wolf reported being temporarily disoriented mid-air, telling News4's I-Team he’s unsure why anyone would commit such a crime.
The FBI said the number of laser pointer strikes has increased by about 1,000% since 2005.
Anyone who has seen someone pointing a laser at an aircraft is urged to call the FBI Washington Field Office at 202-278-2000.
Laser Pointer Incidents (obtained by News4):