CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a growing problem facing all kinds of aircraft – lasers aimed at cockpits that can leave pilots temporarily blinded.
As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, Illinois lawmakers have now made the act illegal at the state level. There is already punishment under federal law.
The law was signed into legislation by Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday. It makes shining a laser at an aircraft a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reported earlier this year that potentially blinding attacks on pilots have happened 98 times across the Chicago area in the past year, and the FBI already has been cracking down.
There has been a huge increase in the number of planes reporting laser incidents in the Chicago area, with O’Hare International Airport ranking No. 2 in the nation last year.
Finding the laser-wielding suspects on the ground is difficult. But the FBI has had some success in Chicago area cases.
In a particularly egregious case in March, two people were charged with shining a laser at both a commercial plane and a Chicago Police helicopter from the ground in the Englewood neighbhorhood.
Shania Smith, 22, of the 8200 block of South Elizabeth Street, and Elvin Slater, 24, of the 400 block of West 60th Street, were each charged with two counts of discharging a laser pointer at a police officer and four counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft.
They allegedly shined a laser at a Southwest Airlines jet coming into Chicago from San Francisco, then at the police helicopter that responded when the pilot reported the incident.
Three men from the northern suburbs were also arrested in the Old Town neighborhood just last month, when they also allegedly shined a laser at a police helicopter. They allegedly pointed the laser from the roof of a building at 450 W. Menomonee St.
Alvin Kang, 25, of Northbrook, Mark Lawrence, 25, of Winnetka, and Jeremy Smith, 24, of Skokie, were charged with two misdemeanor counts each of unlawful use of a weapon, aiming a laser pointer at an officer, police said
Pointing a laser can cause flash blindness for a pilot at a critical moment when a plane is landing, and can also cause involuntary sneezing fits for some people.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)