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High-tech glasses help LAPD catch helicopter laser suspects

July 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two men were caught allegedly pointing a laser at a police helicopter, and LAPD caught them using high-tech eyewear.

Police helicopters provide a birds-eye view over the City of Angels, lending ground officers a priceless vantage point. But recently, an increase of laser pointing has added another danger to their line of work.

Civilians on the ground are shining lasers at the chopper's Plexiglas, illuminating the aircraft and possibly causing permanent eye damage.

"These lasers are extremely high-powered and will actually damage the retina and cause temporary blindness. The light is magnified 100 times to the air crew inside the helicopter and they're blinded," explained Sgt. Mel Stevenson with the LAPD Air Support.

Los Angeles police pilots were flying over Exposition Park just before 2 a.m. Monday when their aircraft was illuminated by green lasers.

With the help of special laser-filter glasses as well as officers on the ground, the pilots were able to pinpoint the location of the laser culprits. The pilots were not injured in the incident

Responding officers with the LAPD Newton Division actually witnessed the two men pointing the lasers at the LAPD helicopter and took them into custody at a home in the 1000 block of Paloma Street in South Los Angeles.

Laser pointing incidents have been on the rise lately and even commercial pilots are at risk. The LAX control tower reported a number of incidents affecting commercial aircraft.

The special glasses are one way to lessen the effect of lasers, but ultimately, the department said it wants tougher legislation passed to act as a deterrent for would-be offenders.

"We're going to notify the FBI. They're going to get involved in it. Hopefully, we can get the message out that these lasers are not to be pointed at aircraft. They're not even to be pointed at other persons because it can damage your eyes," said Stevenson.

Authorities found the suspects possessed both green and red lasers. The suspects face federal and state charges for their offense.

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