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Sheriff's helicopter pilots being targeted by laser beams an ongoing problem


L.A. County Sheriff's Department helicopters have been targeted from the ground by individuals shooting laser beams six times in the last few months, officials said this week.

The incidents have occurred in Maywood, La Puente, Pico Rivera, and West Covina. In four of those cases, sheriff's deputies made arrests of suspects between the ages of 15 and 25. And two of the arrests have come this month.

"This a serious matter," said Sgt. Morrie Zager, a helicopter pilot with the Sheriff's Aero Bureau. "The pilots' disorientation could cause loss of control of the aircraft."

A 16-year-old Los Alamitos boy was arrested this week after sheriff's deputies said he pointed a laser into one of their helicopters as it flew above Interstate 5 and Rosemead Boulevard.

The pilot of the aircraft was able to make a safe landing.

The extent of the problem in the Los Angeles area became evident in a report released in January by the Federal Aviation Administration that said Los Angeles International Airport recorded the highest number of incidents in the country last year involving aircraft and laser beams, which can can distract or temporarily blind pilots.

The nation’s third-busiest airport had 102 reported incidents with 201 more at area airports, including 32 at Los Angeles/Ontario International Airport, 32 from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, and 31 at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, according to the FAA.

The review also found that the number of laser events almost doubled in 2010 from the previous year to more than 2,800 -- the highest number of reports since the federal government began tracking them in 2005.

In California, a conviction for aircraft laser pointing can result in up to three years in state prison and a fine of up to $2,000. Some have been pushing for even harsher penalties.

For their part, sheriff's officials said the first step has been to better document such incidents internally. But they also are coordinating with federal and local agencies to combat the problem through education and enforcement.

"The awareness of law enforcement has been heightened on the ground and in the air," said Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker. "But we need the public's help to protect everyone's safety."


Man shot to death in Angeles National Forest

L.A. County sheriff's officials remain tight-lipped about why a captain was relieved of duty

-- Andrew Blankstein
Follow the reporter on Twitter: anblanx

Photo: Sheriff's helicopter taking off. Credit: L.A. Times

Comments () | Archives (19)

It is hard to believe they cannot treat the glass on the aircraft to counter the effects of the laser

I do not think this is a real problem.

The only way to discourage this is to make examples of out of those who dare to cross that line. But the way adolescence are now-a-days with their "Skins," "16 and pregnant" and "Juvies" reality TV shows, on MTV for example, I doubt things will get any better. Bad behavior starts in the family home and parents need to accept responsibility for their child's action and not be in denial.

The us military has filters that helicopter pilots wear that prevent high power visible lasers from causing eye damage or disorientation. In fact a serviceman was recently arrested and charged with selling these on ebay last year. Why cant the sheriffs dept and other LE get hold of these? Security risk?

Stupid kids...

Actually if safety rather than convictions is really the primary concern then a short run of public service announcements telling people that it is illegal to point a laser pointer at anyone or any vehicle and why it is extremely dangerous would be money well spent. There are a LOT of stupid people out there who just dont think about the consequences of thier actions... after decades of shyster personal injury lawyers convincing people that everyone else is to blame and people should not be responsible for thier own actions.

Shining a laser at a helicopter is pretty stupid. But what can you expect from delinquents?

The idiots wanting harsher penalties for this should talk to the idiots in charge of the jail where misdemeanor convicts are currently only serving 20% of their sentences. Or at least read the paper so they might have some understanding of the potential conflict in those goals.

How about assessing a really big fine to adults or the parents of the minors? A big hit to the wallet might make a difference in how freely people use their lasers in the future. And parents might actually be motivated to know what their kids are doing!

A potentially dangerous weapon has been sold into the hands of children and idiots....not a surprise this is happening.

When people become lawless you need to disregard the feelings of the Civil Liberty Union and other Civil Rights Groups. Legislate much stronger laws so as to put the fear of God into the Law Breakers and be merciless in enforcing the new laws. No second chances or excuses. Eliminate the law breakers before the monkey see, monkey do effect gains strength.

Anyone targeting pilots with lasers should spend much more time in jail and face far stiffer fines. This ridiculous act endangers the lives of many people, both in the air and on the ground. The number of incidents is a mindless disregard of others' safety.

Fiscal responsibility prevents the purchase of filtering eye wear.I wonder what you people are going to do when they lock the Emergency Room doors to prevent the poor and uninsured from entering?

Ugg, I failed to see any mention of civil liberties groups in the article. A fanatical obsession with such groups might indicate an underlying inferiority or insecurity on your part. You might want to get that looked at.


These are called ghetto birds.

These helicopters are useless, they couldn't even track down someone pointing a laser directly at them!!! They had to wait from someone to turn the kid in. Same thing happend a few days ago when someone shot at an LAPD chopper. They can't do anything, they definately do not reduce crime, and they cost over $30 million every year.

It's time we ask ourselves who is really more of a danger, the person hovering a 2-ton machine with rotating blades over your head, or a kid with a toy?

The helicopters are used to remind the public that the Federal Government is watching and waiting to use power to crush any future opposition to their control of the citizenry. They are tools of intimidation, to instill a pre-revolution fear of their power and authority. They are not primarily intended by the Fed to fight crime, but to allow it to continue at the highest levels by demoralizing Patriots. They are a display of power.

The lasers are seen as an attack against an authority more than any possible threat to safety, and that is why they so agitated about it. If we don't fear/respect the cops then maybe we won't be passive when they go door to door searching homes for "terrorism". That's unacceptable to our corrupt and decaying rulers.

easy way to solve problem just ground the helicopters,they do pretty much nothing but make a lot of noise and cost the tax payers millions.

I believe Jamie is loafing on his janitor's job.

Is this really a serious issue? I haven't seen any real evidence- just broad statements by likely biased organizations. I do not understand how - " disorientation could cause loss of control of the aircraft." Hmmmmmm, couldn't the pilot, like, maybe, block the laser with his hand, or something. I really don't get it......................But that's alright because non-issues like this are definitely more interesting and important than, like, radioactive pollution,i loss of/lack of civil rights, monopolization of food, water, energy, media, etc.....................Yes, this is a quite fascinating topic indeed...................


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