WATSONVILLE, Calif. (KION) Watsonville police's Special Investigations Unit confiscated a high-powered laser that investigators believe was pointed at airplanes multiple times over the last few weeks.
Officials at the Watsonville Municipal Airport told KION last week that there had been at least 18 laser strike incidents in the last month.
Police said a group of kids near the airport thought it would be funny to point it at airplanes, but the lasers can incapacitate pilots trying to fly safely. The laser strikes had some concerned that the repeated incidents could lead to an emergency, including a crash.
"We've had pilots who for ten minutes couldn't see out of one of his eyes. We usually have two pilots on board at that time, but if that had happened and the other pilot couldn't take control, it could've been a problem," said Chris Gularte, the director of operations at Specialized Helicopters in Watsonville.
Officers spoke to the kids, who apologized, as well as the parents. Police said they are working with the families to get the kids into youth programs.
Nationwide, there are about 6,000 laser strike reports every year. Those caught pointing a laser at an airplane face being arrested, spending five years in prison and a civil penalty from the FAA of $25,000.