South & East Wales Police Air Support Unit is warning the public against the dangers of shining laser pens at the police helicopter.
The warning comes after eight people have been found guilty of offences related to endangering the aircraft by shining laser pens this year alone.
Inspector Gary Smart, who oversees the Air Support Unit for South Wales and Gwent Police, wants the public to realise that what appears to be a few minutes of innocent fun can have devastating consequences.
Inspector Smart said: "People shine laser pens at the helicopter with no concept of the risks imposed to the crew and the public as a result.
“The reality is that shining lasers at the aircraft can have fatal consequences.
“Our message to potential offenders would be don’t bother – we have the tactics to negate the effects of the laser and the cameras and thermal technology in the aircraft makes it simple for us to locate where the lasers are coming from. We will find you and we will arrest you.
“We take this extremely seriously and will continue to take action to prosecute anyone carrying out this offence.”
In August, a 21-year-old man from the Ringland Centre in Newport was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment at a young offenders’ institution after pleading guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft at Cardiff Crown Court.
Gareth Collins, a WO99 crew member said: “We regularly assist with rescue operations and searches for vulnerable missing people, and in these fast-time situations every second counts.
“The laser beam impedes the vision of the pilot and the crew so we’re forced to deal with the offender before we can resume helping people in danger or victims of crime.“
People might think that this is just a harmless prank, but it prevents us from getting on with our jobs and helping the people who need us.”
A number of the arrests for related offences this year were of young people.
Inspector Smart added: “We’re hoping parents will see this message so they can remind their children, if they have access to laser pens, not to use them irresponsibly.”
The maximum penalty for recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft is a fine up to £5,000, and / or five years imprisonment.
Anyone with information regarding such incidents is urged to call South Wales Police or Gwent Police via 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.