June 04--Federal Bureau of Investigation officials on Tuesday announced the start of two campaigns targeting two different types of criminals -- individuals who point lasers at aircraft and human traffickers.
The first campaign is a national effort by the FBI to educate the public about the dangers of pointing a laser at an aircraft and offers a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest of anyone who violates the law, said Douglas Lindquist, special agent in charge of the FBI El Paso Division.
"Since 2005, laser strikes on aircrafts have gone up 1,100 percent," Lindquist said. "So we launched a pilot campaign in February in 12 offices around the country, including one in New Mexico and two in Texas, and that has resulted in a 19 percent decrease in amount laser threats to aircrafts, so now we want to launch that nationwide."
The campaign started in February as a pilot program in 12 cities, including San Antonio, Houston, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. More than 3,900 cases of laser strikes against aircraft were reported across the nation in 2013, which was about an average of 11 incidents a day, officials said.
The campaign is now moving nationwide with 56 FBI offices taking part. There were about 24 cases involving a laser being pointed at an aircraft reported in El Paso in both 2012 and 2013, Lindquist said. So far this year, there have been about 14 reports.
One of the most recent cases in the El Paso area was in February involving a 28-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of pointing a laser at a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter, officials said.
The Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 made it a federal crime to aim a laser at an aircraft. The crime carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, Lindquist said.
"Intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft poses a serious threat to those in the air and on the ground -- and it's a serious crime with serious consequences," said Capt. Lee Moak, international president of the Airline Pilots Association in a statement. "The Laser Threat Awareness Campaign has resulted in an overall reduction of incidents and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the FBI on these efforts."
Anyone with information about an incident that involved a laser being pointed at an aircraft is asked to call the FBI El Paso District office at 832-5000.
The second campaign is the Texans Unite Against Human Trafficking program.
The campaign is aimed at bringing attention to the issue of trafficking, Lindquist said.
Texas had the second most calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which is operated by the Polaris Project, a nonprofit anti-human-trafficking group based in Washington, D.C., in 2013 with more than 430 potential trafficking cases reported, officials said. Since the anti-trafficking reporting hotline started in 2007, more than 9,500 out of 110,000 calls of potential trafficking cases the center received came from Texas.
The campaign will include billboards, radio and television public service announcements to promote the center's hotline and encourage the public to report any potential trafficking victims, officials said.
Also, billboards with the FBI'S Ten Most Wanted human traffickers will be placed throughout the state. A $10,000 reward is being offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest of any of the 10 Most Wanted human traffickers.
For a list of the 10 Most Wanted human traffickers, visit fbi.gov. Anyone with information on one of the traffickers is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.
Anyone with information on a potential human trafficking victim is asked to call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text the Polaris Project at 233733.
Aaron Martinez may be reached at 546-6249.
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