Wednesday, June 20, 2018

California Highway Patrol Cracks Down on Laser Attacks

REDDING, Calif. — Laser light attacks are increasing in the Northstate and local police are receiving Federal help to stop the life threatening attacks.

The California Highway Patrol says anyone who is caught pointing a highly focused laser at planes is guaranteed to face jail time but could also face up to five years in Federal Prison.

Saturday, a CHP Northern Air Operations helicopter was targeted by a laser light in Shasta County. Ground units from the Anderson Police Department were able to track the suspect down and arrest him.

"There's no question it's intentional," CHP Helicopter Pilot Brian Henderson said. He added it was a malicious example of a "lasing" attack on officers.

Recently, two pilots from the Northern Division have needed to take time off in order to recover from lasers pointed directly at their aircraft.

Officer Henderson said the highly focused lasers are not only illegal but they are life threatening to pilots, potential passengers and even drivers on the road.

"This is not just a dangerous act, it's also a very illegal act. It's a felony in California," Henderson said. Henderson added most highly focused lasers people use towards aircraft are purchased illegally. However, any laser can be dangerous when pointed their direction.

"They're small pen-like devices that shine light, usually green in color and the light can travel a long distance because of it's concentration," Henderson added.

CHP helicopters are covered in Plexiglass. The light hits the glass and has what's known as a "Disco Ball Effect."

"You can no longer see other aircraft to avoid them. You can no longer see terrain in front of you. You can no longer see and interpret the navigation equipment inside," Henderson said.

After a laser attack, pilots experience the equivalent of flying "blind." Side effects can last as long as minutes and could end in permanent damage to a person's retina.

CHP said law enforcement planes are not the only ones being targeted. Dispatch has received emergency calls from multiple operators in Shasta County.

Air Medical and commercial planes, such as SkyWest, which flies people regularly out of Redding, have all been targeted.

Lasing is a felony under both California and Federal Law. A single offense can result in jail time, a hefty fine, and up to five years in Federal prison.

Both the CHP and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is actively working to stop the act of "lasing" at an aircraft.

According to CHP, the FBI initiated a program that offers money for information leading to the arrest of any person who intentionally aims a laser at an any aircraft. To help, contact your local law enforcement agency

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REDDING, Calif - Laser pointers can be used for many things Including projects, and messing with cats.

But when users point them at aircraft, it has the potential to be deadly.

"That's a major problem now you're disorienting a pilot thats flying an aircraft full of civilians low on approach over a city, as you can imagine it could be catastrophic," said CHP Pilot Brian Henderson. 

California Highway Patrol Northern Division says on Saturday, pilots were preparing to land at the Redding Municipal Airport when a laser struck the helicopter, causing the pilot temporary blindness.

"Once the laser hits the camera everything goes green. You can't see out front, all your gages, each other, it's like someone turned on a big green light, " said Henderson.  

Henderson tells Action News Now he’s been a pilot for Northern Division for nearly seven years.

In that time his aircraft has been hit more recently than ever before.

But these little devices aren’t just fun, as you can see the light magnifies within the aircraft creating a disco ball effect.

Which isn’t just dangerous but also illegal.

In California pointing a laser at an aircraft is a felony, which can result in up to three years in prison.

It is also a federal crime.

And that sentencing can result in nearly five years in prison.

Henderson and the CHP office says they hope shedding light on the dangers will stop people from committing these crimes , adding the pilots are just trying to do their jobs safely.

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