A crime that can temporarily blind airplane pilots and put air passengers at risk is spiking in New York City airports, authorities said.
Laser beam strikes targeting in-bound planes have increased 39 percent in the city, the FBI said. The number of incidents jumped to 99 in 2013 from 71 in 2012.
Authorities believe youngsters on top of residential roofs are aiming the powerful light beams at airplane cockpits as a prank.
“Laser incidents are often viewed as harmless acts. This couldn’t be further from the truth,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos. “A laser pointed at a plane’s cockpit could blind a pilot and down an aircraft.”
At least 35 pilots have been injured by laser strikes since last December, the FBI said.
In one instance, a JetBlue pilot flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport last December was temporarily blinded for more than a week, the bureau said.
The federal agency is offering up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest and is hoping its regional awareness campaign deters the felony, which is punishable by five years in jail.
“It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
The pointers can be easily and legally purchased, authorities said, and the beams can travel further than one mile.
Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 212-384-1000.