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US: More than 30,000 lasers are "out of control" in Ocean City MD

In the summer of 2010, laser pointer abuse is “out of control” in Ocean City, Maryland, according to Police Chief Bernadette DiPino: “The Boardwalk is just inundated with these green lasers.” Police said 23 local stores had sold more than 30,000 laser pointers this year (2010). A city councilman said it was “like Star Wars” on the Boardwalk.

Perpetrators are shining beams onto the faces, “chests and private parts” of passers-by; the latter starting fights with boyfriends according to the chief. One family complained that their child had a seizure after a laser was shone on their eyes. A councilwoman said “a young boy ... shined a green laser directly into her eyes. She said her vision is now hazy and impaired, though a doctor advises her it will eventually return to normal.”

An article from delmarvanow.com quoted 29-year-old Richard Drake of Ocean City, who in 2009 “sustained serious damage to his left eye after having a red laser shone purposefully in the face. Now he sees everything with a pinkish hue.” He is campaigning to have laser pointer sales banned in the resort town.

The town council was poised to ban sales to minors and possession by minors, to make it illegal to aim lasers at people and vehicles, and mandating signs in stores and handouts to buyers that describe the city’s ordinances. (The legislation passed; see story here.)
A clerk was arrested June 12 for shining a laser pointer onto a person outside the store. Elisabeth Mesfin was arrested and charged with prohibited use of a laser.

A clerk in another store was quoted as saying laser pointers were a fad: “You cannot stop it. Everything is popular for a couple of weeks, then they gonna shut it down.”

The police chief, DiPino, said there was a similar spate of incidents in 1998 leading to an Ocean City ordinance banning any harassing or annoying shining of laser pointers on a person. But the “next season, they just went away” because they weren’t cool anymore.

From the DelMarVa Daily Times and two stories in the Ocean City Chronicle here and here