GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man from Oakland County could face criminal charges for allegedly pointing a laser at aircraft earlier this week.
Michigan State Police say one of the agency’s flight crews was performing a training exercise Monday night when they were struck by a green laser. The crew was able to track the source of the laser to a home south of Fenton.
Surveillance video from the helicopter shows the troopers tracking the source of the laser, with one view showing the man apparently shining it through a window of his home.
The helicopter monitored the area as deputies were called in to confront the suspect. The 53-year-old suspect was interviewed by deputies and the laser was confiscated. In a social media post, MSP said the incident has been turned over to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
“We want to be very clear about this. If you point a laser at any aircraft and put the pilots, passengers or people on the ground in danger, we will locate and arrest you,” 1st Lt. Mike Shaw said in a statement. “We are continuing to see an increase in this dangerous behavior.”
Data from the Federal Aviation Administration confirms Shaw’s statement. Reports of laser strikes have risen significantly in the last five years. In 2018, the FAA reported 5,663 strikes. Reports peaked in 2021 with 9,723 laser strikes. Numbers dropped slightly in 2022 to 9,457.
The FAA says laser strikes need to be taken seriously because high-powered lasers can “incapacitate pilots” while flying, putting many lives at risk.
If trends hold, the number of reported laser strikes in 2023 will exceed the 2021 total. According to the FAA, 2,537 laser strikes have been reported between Jan. 1 and the end of March in 2023. Five of those strikes resulted in undisclosed injuries. Of those strikes, 20 were reported in Michigan, including four in the Kalamazoo area and one from Grand Rapids.