CBP Joins Campaign Against Aircraft Laser Strikes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine joined the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other 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.
CBP, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Puerto Rico Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies in the region will 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.
"Shining a laser at an aircraft, although seemingly harmless, it is a dangerous act that compromises the capability of an aircrew to land an aircraft safely," stated Johnny Morales, director of air operations for CBP's Caribbean Air and Marine Branch.
From January 1 to Sept. 6, 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.
Lasers are inexpensive to obtain and their range 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
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.
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.
The Office of Air and Marine (OAM) is the world's largest aviation and maritime law enforcement organization, and is a critical component of CBP's layered enforcement strategy for border security. OAM is uniquely positioned to provide direct air and maritime support to multiple agencies and to ensure the success of border protection and law enforcement operations between ports of entry, within the maritime operating areas and within the nation's interior.