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$10,000 reward offered to catch culprits who point lasers at aircrafts

by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 6:43 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 12 at 10:35 AM

The number of incident involving people pointing laser pointers at aircraft is up another 25 percent and it happens more in Houston than almost anywhere else in the nation.

It is both a state and federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft and now law enforcement is teaming up to try and stop it.

Now nationally any tip to law enforcement that leads to charges in a case involving laser pointers and aircraft comes with a $10,000 reward.

Houston based pilot Mark Crystal knows the risk first hand.

“We saw a green flash come off of the right wing,” said Crystal.

He says he and his fellow pilot immediately fell back on their training.

“It was very confusing," said Crystal. "Very distracting. Don’t look outside of the windows, look back and focus on our gauges. Continue flying safely."

They were lucky and landed without incident, but no one was ever caught.

There have been two prosecutions in recent years in Houston involving people that got caught pointing lasers at Houston Police Helicopters.

Helicopters at least have the flexibility to stop and try to find the source of the light, but commercial airplanes don’t have that ability.

“The pilot might be able to detect the direction that the laser came from but that is it,” said Greg Motl, the Houston area manager for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Pilots report incidents to air traffic controllers who then tell police but catching anyone on the ground is tough.

That’s where this program and tips come in.

There were 126 incidents just last year in Houston, second most of any city in the country, and 25 percent of the cases in the entire state of Texas.

Most of the local incidents are reported near the airports and there has been just one conviction.

“This is the kind of thing that kids do," said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. " It is stupid, but it can have deadly consequences."

Anderson is not just the Harris County District Attorney, but she is also a parent with a message.

”Talk to your kids about these lasers," said Anderson. "They need to understand that this is a crime to use them improperly.”

There are big punishments, including up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine for a state charge. The Federal Aviation Administration can also tack on an $11,000 federal fine if the suspects are minor that parents could have to pay.

If you have any information about a laser incident you are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

If you see one happening, call 911.

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