Story highlights

Reports of laser incidents rise 17% from last year, the FBI says

Injuries from the lasers are also on the rise

Lasers can cause temporary or permanent blindness

It is a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft

New York CNN  — 

Incidents of lasers targeting aircraft and pilots are increasing in frequency in the New York area, the FBI said Friday.

Reports of lasers being pointed at aircraft are up 17% percent from last year, the bureau said. Injuries involving the laser occurrences are also on the rise, the FBI said; lasers can temporarily or permanently blind a pilot and crew.

The most recent incidents happened Tuesday, the FBI said.

The first involved a Shuttle America flight that was on final approach to LaGuardia Airport when a green laser illuminated the cockpit. The second was later that evening when a private aircraft reported a green laser two miles south of LaGuardia.

No injuries were reported in either instance, but earlier this year several commercial pilots suffered significant injuries, including a burnt retina, because of lasers, the FBI said.

“The FBI is asking anyone with information about any of these dangerous laser incidents to pick up the phone and call us,” Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said. “Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew.”

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is leading the investigation.

The FBI is offering a reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of anyone involved in lasers targeting aircraft.

A law signed last year makes it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft.

In 2005, there were fewer than 300 incidents where planes were targeted, but that number grew more than 12 times to nearly 3,600 in 2011, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA attributes the massive increase to laser pointers being more widely available online, stronger power levels, an increase in green lasers which are easier to see, and better reporting of the incidents by pilots.

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CNN’s Ross Levitt contributed to this report.