(Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, in a bid to crack down on an airline safety threat, said on Tuesday it would begin offering a reward of up to $10,000 for tips that lead to the arrest of anyone who shines a laser into a cockpit.
The number of cases of people shining lasers into cockpits, which can temporarily blind pilots and endanger passengers, has been on the rise since the FBI began tracking them in 2005, with 3,960 such incidents reported in 2013.
"Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division. "This is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions."
The FBI said it is offering rewards for 60 days in a test program at 12 of its field offices where incidents are prevalent including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Under federal law, pointing a laser at an aircraft is punishable by up to five years in prison, the FBI said.
(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by James Dalgleish)