(RNN) - Attention people of New York: Stop using your lasers. Also, why do you have lasers?
The FBI New York Field Office announced a program would be offering rewards of up to $10,000 for help identifying people who aim the devices at aircrafts. They reported 99 incidents of this in 2013 from the area, an increase of 39 percent from 2012.
"Laser incidents are often viewed as harmless acts; this couldn't be further from the truth. A laser pointed at a plane's cockpit could blind a pilot and down an aircraft," said Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos. "We are asking anyone who knows anything about the recent spate of incidents to pick up the phone and call the FBI for the safety of all who fly."
Outside of the military, law enforcement and Dr. Evil, there aren't a number of reasons for owning a laser that come to mind for the average non-laser owner. Sure, they are popular in the boardroom for people too lazy to stand and/or hold a stick, but one wouldn't expect those titans of industry to be so irresponsible in their after-hours activities.
And before anyone says they are a hunting tool, here are three suggestions for a sportsman who thinks they need one:
BigLasers.com, the self-proclaimed No. 1 trusted laser source since 2005, reports hand-held lasers are "used widely for a number of different applications across a wide range of professional and personal fields." However, the site neglects to mention what those may be.
A visit to Wikipedia provides a list of uses for laser pointers. "Pointing" was the top answer.
Laser enthusiasm might be humorous, but the reported effects of hitting a plane with one are not. The beam has been described as the equivalent of a camera flash going off in a pitch black car at night.
"The latest injury was reported on Dec. 26, 2013, by a JetBlue pilot on approach to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport," the FBI release stated. "The JetBlue pilot experienced blurry vision for [more than] a week after being temporarily blinded by a laser."
More than 3,960 laser strikes against aircraft were reported nationwide in 2013. Since the FBI began tracking them in 2005, there has been more than a 1,000 percent increase.
In addition to New York, 11 other offices are participating in the program. They are Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan, and Washington, DC.
For anyone with the bright idea of turning themselves in for laser abuse and collecting the reward: It is a federal felony. A Portland man charged with aiming a pointer at two airliners faces a potential punishment of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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