July 2, 2013

Green lasers along Grand Strand not as prominent as last summer

Local officials see a decline in use of green lasers after ordinances pass to crack down their use.

Grand Strand area law enforcement and city officials are reporting a lower number of handheld laser pointer – or green laser – complaints, compared to last year.

In 2012, Myrtle Beach International Airport reported 70 strikes from lasers during the summer and the U.S. Coast Guard limited service to the Grand Strand because it became classified as an active fire zone. The green lasers, at higher milliwatts, can cause significant eye damage to humans and animals, according to published reports. It was believed that people in oceanfront hotels were beaming the lights into Coast Guard searcher’s eyes causing a temporary blindness during searches.

Horry County and Myrtle Beach officials each passed ordinances prohibiting the sale of the green laser pointers to those under the age of 18, and requiring that the strength of the devices not exceed 1 milliwatt.

“We’ve had remarkably fewer complaints than we did last year,” said Mark Kruea, spokesman for Myrtle Beach. “The ordinance seems to have made a huge difference.”

Lt. Robert Kegler of the Horry County Police said the county has seen similar results.

“So far this year, there has been a large decrease in calls concerning the usage of green lasers and zero citations have been issued,” Kegler said. “ It is still a concern with not necessarily the holiday weekend, but with the increase in population during the summer months.

“It is a matter of continued education, as we have a new group of visitors in our area every week that may not be familiar with our ordinance.”

The ordinances mirror each other in that any adult who is found guilty of using the laser improperly will be charged with assault and battery, a fine up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, as well as be held liable for any damage or personal injury. If a minor is found using the laser improperly, he or she will be prosecuted in Family Court by the 15th Circuit Solicitors Office.

Also, a parent can be held responsible for the misuse of the laser pointer by a minor who is under their care and can be fined up to $500 and serve up to 30 days in jail.

Kruea said this year’s complaints have been “a handful compared to a bucket full” last year. He thinks the green lasers weren’t something people were bringing to the beach, but buying at the beach.

“They were an impulse purchase,” he said. “A fad.”

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