Coast Guard: Horry County ‘success story’ in battling green lasers

03/14/2014 12:36 PM

03/14/2014 1:56 PM

The Horry County Council was commended this week for its crackdown on green lasers, prompting a U.S. Coast Guard official to call the county its “only success story” with green lasers.

In 2013, Horry County cracked down on the sale and use of green lasers because of complaints filed by the Coast Guard. Coast Guard officials said visitors along the beach would shine the green lasers in the eyes of pilots and boat search teams, causing a temporary loss of sight.

“Green lasers was a popular topic and a large problem in the county a couple of years ago,” said Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for the county. “County Council took the concerns of the Horry County Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard very serious and placed restrictions on the sale and use of green lasers.

“We are pleased to announce that green lasers are no longer a problem in Horry County; however we need to continue to enforce these new regulations and educate our visitors on a yearly basis.”

Capt. Rick Rodriguez, of the U.S. Coast Guard, is charged with overseeing operations in Georgia and South Carolina. Rodriguez recently spoke to the council and commended council members for eliminating the green laser problem.

“In the fall of 2012, my predecessor … came to plea for all of you to get your support to establish an ordinance to prevent our aircraft from being stricken by green lasers,” Rodriguez said, adding there were about 4,000 incidents with green lasers reported by the Coast Guard in 2013. “We’re proud to say that in this county here, there were none.

“The ordinance that you passed has worked. For us, this has been a significant improvement. It really is working and it is a model that’s going to be used across the country.”

After months of discussing the matter, the Horry County Council started off 2013 by unanimously adopting an ordinance that limits the sale of green lasers in the unincorporated portions of the county. The ordinance prohibits the sale of green laser pointers to those under the age of 18, and the strength of the devices can’t exceed 1 milliwatt.

Like Horry County, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach all approved bans on the sale and leisure use of green lasers after the problems in 2012.

The action was a response to complaints in 2012 about people pointing the lasers at aircraft and other vehicles. Dozens of laser strikes on approaching aircraft at Myrtle Beach International Airport were reported during the summer of 2012 and the U.S. Coast Guard limited service to the Grand Strand because it became classified as an active fire zone. Mike LaPier, then-Horry County director of airports, had said 70 strikes from lasers were made against approaching aircraft during the summer months.

Commander Greg Fuller, of the Coast Guard, said it is important for the county not to let up in its efforts.

“This is the only success story we have on the Coast Guard right now” with lasers, Fuller said.

“The team effort worked. We can’t let up. The minute we back off and say, ‘Hey, we won,’ it’ll start back up again.”

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