Scott Gordon, NBCDFW.com
Lasers have been pointed at airplanes 51 times so far this year in North Texas, far more than the 34 incidents in all of 2010.
People on the ground have pointed lasers at airplanes 51 times so far this year in North Texas -- more than all of last year and more than in any other part of the country, the government said Wednesday.
Safety experts warn lasers can blind pilots and cause a crash.
Phoenix followed Dallas/Fort Worth with 49 reported laser incidents this year. Philadelphia was third with 36.
Last year, DFW didn't even make the top 10 list with 34 in all of 2010.
The latest numbers were revealed at the same time as a Federal Aviation Administration announcement of a new $11,000 fine for people caught pointing a laser at a plane. Those convicted of the crime can also be sent to prison.
The trouble is finding the offenders.
Few people are ever caught, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.
It was unclear why North Texas has seen such an increase in laser incidents this year, but experts suggest Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport's sheer size has something to do with it.
"Look at how much area is around the airport," said aviation consultant Denny Kelly. "Not only that, but look at the area itself. There are trees and all kinds of things where you can hide."
In Washington on Wednesday, government leaders said they would refocus their efforts on stopping the dangerous trend.
"Our top priority is protecting the safety of the traveling public," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "We will not hesitate to take tough action against anyone who threatens the safety of our passengers, pilots and air transportation system."
The Allied Pilots Association praised the crackdown.
"With the enhanced legal measures announced today and other important actions outlined in APA's plan, we can turn this trend around and end laser attacks on our nation's aircraft," said APA president Capt. Lee Moak.