The Justice Department directed U.S. attorneys on Wednesday to prioritize the prosecution of airline passengers who have committed federal crimes aboard aircraft.

Why it matters: The department's statement comes amid a surge in unruly passengers incidents, with the Federal Aviation Administration reporting more than 5,000 occurrences this year.

The FAA and the DOJ established an information-sharing protocol in August to "ensure the department is notified about criminal conduct occurring on commercial aircraft," per the release. Attorney General Merrick Garland reiterated that federal law prohibits assaults, intimidation and threats of violence, adding that such conduct "endangers everyone aboard."

What they're saying: Passengers who harm "flight crews and flight attendants ... prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel," Garland said in a statement.

"The Department of Justice is committed to using its resources to do its part to prevent violence, intimidation, threats of violence ... that endangers the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants," he added.
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