Nearly 350 laser pen incidents reported to South Yorkshire Police in less than two years
Police in South Yorkshire were called out to 349 incidents involving laser pens in less than two years, new figures reveal.
They were reported between 2014 and September 2015, according to details released under the Freedom of Information Act.
There are calls for laser pens to be classed as offensive weapons, with almost 6,500 police reports of incidents, nationally, since 2014.
Offences include shining them into aeroplane cockpits, at oncoming traffic, at trains and into homes.
More than 400 cases of aircraft being targeted have been reported, as well as dozens of emergency service helicopters.
A pilots’ union has warned the consequences could soon be disastrous and called for a change in the legislation to class them as offensive weapons.
The Civil Aviation Authority said it received 882 reported incidents of planes being targeted with lasers in the first three-quarters of 2015 and a total of 1,440 in 2014.
Stephen Landells, flight safety expert at the British Airline Pilots Association, warned of the possible consequences for single-pilot aircraft and helicopters as the power of lasers available to the public continues to increase.
“What we’re seeing now is the increase in power of lasers and the build quality is getting better,” he said.
“This means the divergence is getting better so you end up with a pinpoint light and can dazzle pilots from a greater distance and higher height.
“I went and bought a laser and worked out you could basically blind someone from nearly a kilometre away and there’s absolutely no use for this except as a weapon.
“Any single-pilot operation, be it helicopter or light aircraft, if you take away the pilots vision at night the consequences could be disastrous.
“The other concern I have is if you have very powerful lasers with a wide beam you could conceivably have a wide enough beam to affect both pilots.”
Mr Landells said the law needed to change so people had to have a good reason to be carrying a laser, which would allow the police to act when they had reasonable suspicion of misuse.
“If the police get a report that aircraft are being lasered going into Heathrow and they find someone standing there with a laser in their pocket, there is nothing they can do at the moment because lasers don’t come under the offensive weapon legislation,” he said.
“The law says you can’t carry a knife without good reason - a carpet fitter going into a building in the afternoon has a reason to carry a knife. But someone walking down the street at 11pm outside a pub doesn’t.
“And we want lasers to come under that same legislation so the police can say we have reasonable suspicion and they can be arrested.”