Coast Guard: Vigilant Horry County must continue to fight green lasers

03/15/2014 10:44 AM

03/15/2014 7:20 PM

A U.S. Coast Guard official is calling Horry County its “only success story” with green lasers, commending Horry County Council for being tough on green lasers.

Beach visitors along the East Coast were shining the green lasers into the night sky, causing a temporary loss of sight when they hit the eyes of pilots and boat search teams, Coast Guard officials said. In 2013, Horry County cracked down on the sale and use of green lasers because of complaints filed by the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Commander Greg Fuller said it’s 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.”

Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for the county, said County Council took the concerns of the Horry County Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard seriously and placed restrictions on the sale and use of the lasers.

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.

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