Feds to Crack Down on Lasers at Airport

ROMULUS, Mich._Authorities are cracking down on anyone caught shining lasers at airplanes after 16 pilots reported seeing the potentially blinding lights while landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in one night.

The 16 incidents were all reported Monday evening, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory. It was the second rash of incidents at the airport in the past six months.

The FAA has said that were 305 laser incidents between late 2004 and the beginning of this year.

"We treat it as a very serious matter," FBI Special Agent Dawn Clenney said. "Laser beams can disorient pilots responsible for an airplane full of passengers."

A memo sent to law enforcement agencies by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department in 2004 said there is evidence that terrorists have explored using such lasers as weapons. Clenney said pointing laser beams at airplanes could be considered a terrorist act under the USA Patriot Act and could carry up to 20 years in prison.

The FAA said the pilots reported the beams appeared to be coming from the area around Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. Police in searched in the areas where pilots thought the beams originated but found nothing suspicious.

"If it's just kids or some irresponsible adults, they should be warned that this is a serious matter and will be treated as such," said Dearborn Heights police Capt. Lee Gavin.

<<AP Online -- 02/16/06>>

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