JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Local military officials are stressing the dangers of a growing problem in the Jacksonville area -- people pointing lasers into the cockpits of planes and helicopters.

The lasers can permanently blind a pilot and create a dangerous situation.

Just last week, it caused a pilot to make an emergency landing in South Carolina, and it has also happened more than one time in downtown Jacksonville.

Even though pilots are hundreds, even thousands of feet in the air, a laser light aimed into the cockpit can cause them to lose control and crash.

Lt. Fernando Reyes, a U.S. Navy pilot, says it's like if a person were driving a car at night and someone took a picture close to their face with a flash. Reyes was flying about a mile off the coast of Fernandina Beach when he was lased a few months ago.

"The light blinds them," Mayport Safety Officer Cheryl Griswold said. "Sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently and it can cause them to lose control of the aircraft."

It's happened dozens of time, the latest incident at the Peninsula condominium downtown just last week.

Paramedics say an air ambulance helicopter pilot was lased while transporting an emergency patient to Memorial Hospital.

"He was coming in relatively low, decelerating and losing altitude when someone from the balcony of one of the condos pointed the laser in the cockpit, producing a blinding effect," Griswold said.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports lasing incidents rose 902 percent from 2005 to 2011.

So, why would someone put countless lives at risk both in the air and on the ground? Naval officers believe it's because the locals are annoyed by the overhead aircraft noise.

"I think that's it," Petty Officer First Class Lauren Jorgensen said. "They're tired of the low-flying planes and helicopters, and they think this is the solution, but they're putting the pilots life at risk and the people on the ground's lives at risk. It has to stop."

Investigators say those pointing the lasers at pilots are also teens doing it as a prank or out of boredom.

"We had one pilot with severe symptoms," said Commander Richard Hancock, a U.S. Coast Guard chief pilot. "He had headaches, prolonged headaches over the next few days, a little bit of vertigo, kind of a dizziness where it affected his optic nerve."

Lt. Joe Forging, of Coast Guard Station Savannah, said that in the last 18 months, he's station has seen about six lasing incidents, four of which have happened on active search rescue cases.

"These are cases we're flying really low. We're already in a hazardous profile," Forging said.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a second-degree felony that carries up to five years in prison, probation and fines. If someone's injured, it's a third-degree felony. Because of the partnership the military has formed with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, a few people have been arrested and prosecuted.

The spike has urged local military officials to partner with law enforcement to ramp up their response efforts.

Last March, 18-year-old Devon Joyner (pictured right) was arrested in Orange Park and charged with pointing a laser light at a Coast Guard pilot. Joyner was sentenced to two years probation.

"The laser he did have was a large laser," Hancock said. "It was not the laser pointer you get at Office Depot. This one was quite large and powerful, and he had it mounted on a tripod with a specific intent to laser aircraft."

Authorities are warning parents that if their son or daughter has a laser on a tripod, they may want to ask why, because pointing a laser at an aircraft is a serious offense.