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Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal Aviation Administration Join Forces Against Aircraft Laser Strikes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

FBI San Juan September 17, 2013
  • Special Agent Carlos Osorio (787) 759-1550

SAN JUAN—The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) San Juan Field Office and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are combining efforts with federal and local law enforcement authorities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to raise awareness of laser strikes against aircraft in the islands.

The FBI conducts criminal investigations of aircraft laser strike incidents. Shining a laser at an aircraft or its flight path is a felony offense under Title 18, United States Code, Section 39A. If found guilty, offenders face a fine of up to $250,000 and five years’ imprisonment.

“Shining a laser at an aircraft is a senseless act which places the lives of aircrews and passengers who travel to and from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands at risk,” said Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Juan Field Office. “Our office is committed to investigating these reports and working with federal law enforcement partners to identify and bring offenders to justice.”

The Federal Aviation Administration enforces stiff civil penalties of $11,000 per violation against persons who point lasers at aircraft. Since the FAA announced this initiative, the agency has opened 129 enforcement cases against persons who aimed laser devices at aircraft.

From January 1 to September 6, 2013, a total of 2,711 laser incidents were reported to the FAA nationwide, 95 in Puerto Rico. In 2012, a total of 3,482 strikes were reported nationwide, 75 in Puerto Rico.

Since the FAA created the reporting system in 2005, laser strike reports have sharply increased from 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009; 2,836 in 2010; and 3,591 in 2011.

The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Puerto Rico Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies in the region assist the FBI with monitoring and reporting these incidents to identify, apprehend, and turn over criminals to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Lasers are inexpensive to obtain, and their ranges may extend more than two miles. Pilots affected by laser strikes regularly report temporary effects including after-image, flash blindness, and temporary loss of night vision. If a flight crew member is lased, his or her ability to safely fly the aircraft is seriously compromised, endangering passengers and the public.

If you witness an individual aiming a laser at an aircraft, send an e-mail to laserreports@faa.gov. Additional information about the FAA’s laser initiative is available at: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/lasers/

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