by Debbi Baker / U-T San Diego / May 23, 2012
For the second time this month a green laser was aimed at the eyes of Harbor Police officers patrolling the shoreline.
The officers were about a half-mile offshore of Ocean Beach just before midnight Tuesday when the powerful beam was pointed at their faces, Harbor Police Sgt. Mike Rich said. They notified officers on the land, who searched Sunset Cliffs near Ladera Street for about 20 minutes before locating four men in their 20s on the beach, Rich said.
One of the men admitted shining the laser at the boat, Rich said. He was cited and released and the laser was confiscated. The officers were not injured.
On May 4, two Harbor Police officers did suffer eye injuries when a laser was pointed at them while they were on routine patrol off Shelter Island about 8:30 p.m. Both were treated at a hospital. One officer was temporarily blinded and taken off duty for several days to recover, officials said. They have since returned to work. Officers believed the light came from a hill between Canyon and Talbot streets, below Catalina Boulevard in Point Loma. The neighborhood was searched but no arrests were made.
Laser pointers, used in everything from slideshow demonstrations to construction work to astronomy, are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA officials warn that the radiation-emitting devices should not be used as toys.
Agency officials have said injuries from the light energy of a laser pointer can be more damaging than staring directly into the sun. The beam can harm delicate eye tissue and cause lasting injuries.
The startling effect of a bright beam of light aimed at the operators of a vessel, a vehicle or an aircraft also can cause flash-blindness leading to serious, or even fatal, accidents. Flash-blindness is a temporary loss of vision that can last from several seconds to several minutes, FDA officials said.
The FDA sets safety standards that must be met before laser products, including pointers, can be legally sold in the U.S. market. Some products, however, are widely available on the Internet and some are altered to be more powerful. Those types of laser products are illegal, according to the FDA. It is also possible that purchased products coming into the U.S. from overseas may be confiscated.