The Danger of the Little Red Dot
Posted November 16, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
FRANKLINTON — People use them in presentations, professors point with them in class and now kids are playing with them. They shine laser pointers at just about anything to get a laugh, but there may be danger in the little red dot.
Children are not just pointing the lights at friends. They are taking aim at police officers.
The laser pointers shoot out a red dot that looks just like the one that comes from a gun, which has police officers worried.
People can buy the lights at almost any variety store. They look like a pen light, but a laser beam comes out of it. Just like the laser sights on some guns.
In the "Terminator," Arnold Schwarzeneggar used the laser light to blow away his enemies. Most people would not expect to see a laser light beaming on the streets of Franklinton, population 2,000. However, while patrolling the streets one night last week, someone aimed a red beam right into Lt. Jackie Stroud's police unit.
"I had a drink in my hand, and I started to take a drink of it," Stroud said. "Then this red light bounced off of it."
At that moment, Stroud did not know if he was a target, or just the victim of a scary prank.
"You don't know if somebody's fixing to shoot you, because usually when there's a red light there's a weapon hooked to it and you're waiting to hear something or feel something," Stroud said.
The danger of the red light goes beyond just the fright factor.
Dr. Ric Munz says the laser light should be used as a tool, not a toy, because it is concentrated light that can quickly penetrate deep into the eye.
"Laser lights are toys that can potentially be misused and abused," Munz said. "Concentrated energy of any kind whether through a solar eclipse, a welding torch or a laser light, can create a burn on the retina, which potentially can have permanent damage."
Officials in the town of Bunn in Franklin County are looking at way to make the lights illegal for children. One city in Connecticut has already passed a law. Reporter: Todd HauerPhotographer: David Renner