The continuing saga of jackasses with laser beams is, well, continuing. And it’s happening all over New Jersey!
Eleven commercial jets reported laser contacts on Wednesday night over New Jersey, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Five of the incidents occurred at Newark Liberty International Airport, with the rest at various other points in the state, from Ocean City to Robbinsville.
Who could it be?
It’s a phenomenon that has become ridiculously and bafflingly common in recent years. In March, Elehecer Balaguer allegedly found himself with too much time on his hands and decided to shine a laser at some planes over LaGuardia. His light was quickly spotted by police helicopters, who were able to send officers to respond. After they arrested the wrong guy, Balaguer allegedly fessed up. He’s currently facing federal charges over the incident.
According to the FAA, the number of these incidents have really taken off 😉 in recent years: There were 283 reported laser strikes in 2005, and 3,690 in 2013, the last year for which statistics are available.
Pilots say the lasers are a dangerous distraction, filling the cockpit with light and temporarily destroying night vision. As Samuel M. Goldwasser, a former professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Voice in March, the increasingly cheap and readily available laser pointers on the market today are far more powerful than they were just a few years ago. While the beam may start out small on the ground, Goldwasser said, over a few thousand feet, a laser beam’s circle of light can expand to several yards in diameter.
“The average person doesn’t realize what they’re doing,” Goldwasser said in March. “They don’t realize that this little, itty-bitty thing can be so disruptive at a mile away.”
The FAA said it is investigating the incidents but no arrests have been made. The federal government has been cracking down on the pointers in recent years, however; in 2014, a man in California received a fourteen-year prison sentence for a similar incident.
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Jon Campbell is a staff writer for the Voice, covering criminal justice, legal issues, and the occasional mutant park squirrel. Tip him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @j0ncampbell.