OC Police Remind Public, Businesses About Laser Pointer Law

OCEAN CITY — Two years after reaching a crescendo, the laser pointer issue has apparently resurfaced in Ocean City, prompting the police department to remind consumers of the ordinance covering the ubiquitous gadgets.

In the summer of 2010, the Ocean City Mayor and Council passed an emergency ordinance covering the illegal use of laser pointers on the Boardwalk and throughout the resort after they became a hot trend during the season. An estimated 30,000 laser pointers were sold at many Boardwalk stores and complaints soared about consumers shining the annoying toys in peoples’ eyes, in condo and apartment windows and even at police and emergency service helicopters responding to incidents.

In response, Ocean City officials passed a two-pronged emergency ordinance covering the issue on two fronts. The new ordinance dictated how and where it was appropriate for consumers to use laser pointers. It also covered the business side, putting stringent restrictions on their sale, including a prohibition on their sale to minors.

The Ocean City ordinance, which ultimately was used as model for other jurisdictions with the same problems, achieved the desired results, at least in the short term, as laser pointers became less of an issue in the resort for the rest of 2010 and last summer. This summer, however, there has been a spike in the number of complaints.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of citizen complaints about laser pointers in recent weeks,” said Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) spokesperson Jessica Waters. “After kind of being a mum issue for a long time after it was such a big issue two years ago, we’ve really seen it resurface this summer and we’re trying to remind everybody of the laws on the books.”

Just like 2010, the typical complaints include laser pointers being shone in people’s eyes, their condos and apartment and their vehicles. Waters said the OCPD is obliged to respond to the complaints and takes each one seriously, but the frequency is creating some challenges.

“It’s really tying up manpower,” she said. “When we have to respond to these calls for service, it takes our officers away from doing other important police work.”

The OCPD has ramped up its enforcement on laser pointers in terms of the people possessing and using them as well as the merchants that sell them.

“We’ve been doing a lot of compliance checks with the businesses to make sure they’re making people aware of the laws on the books,” she said.