Ocean City bans laser pointers

Ocean City, N.J., has banned the use and sale of high-powered laser pointers after complaints about people on the ground pointing them into aircraft cockpits. According to federal authorities, 14 planes or helicopters were flashed near Atlantic City International Airport last year.

Ocean City police asked boardwalk shops to stop selling the pointers last year, but they popped back up on shelves this summer.

Police Captain Steve Ang said last month, a man was arrested for shining a laser pointer at the pilot of a Coast Guard helicopter.

“It blinded him for a brief second, he regained his composure, they were able to pinpoint the laser came from an area of our boardwalk,” Ang said.

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The ordinance bans the use and sale of laser pointers more powerful than one milliwatt. John Suehle, an electronics engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, called the rule “conservative but reasonable.” He said an aircraft would have to be flying relatively low to the ground for that pointer to cause glare or flash-blindness.

“One thing about lasers is the beam diverges as it leaves the source,” Suehle said, “so the actual beam gets wider and wider and the power density goes down, so if you do that calculation for a one milliwatt laser, maybe a hundred feet is what we’re talking about.”

The federal government bans laser pointers above 5 milliwatts, and it is illegal nationwide to shine them into plane cockpits. Captain Ang says in Ocean City they are also worried about people shining pointers at amusement ride operators.

Last year, Ocean City, Md., passed a law making it illegal to shine laser pointers at people.

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