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FBI trying to deter people from pointing lasers at planes

newark airport (EPA/TANNEN MAURY)

newark airport (EPA/TANNEN MAURY) Credit: Newark Liberty International Airport (EPA/Tannen Maury)

The FBI for the first time is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for tips that bust people who point laser lights at airplanes, while incidents in New York were up in the past year.

In 2013, there were 99 reported instances of lasers aimed into cockpits in the New York area, up from 71 in 2012, the FBI reported.

Intentionally targeting aircraft with laser lights is a felony and poses a danger to pilots and their crews. In a recent incident in late December, a JetBlue pilot approaching Kennedy Airport was temporarily blinded by a laser and suffered blurry vision for more than a week afterward, the FBI said.

George Johnson, a federal air marshal who works with the FBI on laser issues, said that while laser pointers are legal and have legitimate uses, they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

“We hope that more public awareness about this issue will lower the instances of laser strikes,” Johnson said in a statement. “We also want to encourage people to come forward when they see someone committing this felony — one that could have terrible consequences for pilots and their passengers.”

Last year there were 3,960 strikes reported nationwide, according to numbers compiled by the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the FBI at 212-384-1000. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

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