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Police Beat: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
By Officer Lois Perillo
In response to your questions about the state's Smoke-Free Workplace Law, which was extended to bars on Jan. 1, 1998, here are some answers culled from the California Labor Code, No. 6405.5.
First of all, the exact wording of the statute is: "No employee shall knowingly or intentionally permit, and no person shall engage in, the smoking of tobacco products in an enclosed space at a place of employment."
But be aware of these facts:
* Private clubs are not exempt.
* The physical size of the workplace is irrelevant.
* Using volunteers as servers will not exempt a workplace from compliance.
* The number of workplace employees present or not present is irrelevant. As long as an owner employs one employee, whether or not the employee is present, the owner must maintain a smoke-free environment.
* At present, owner installation of an interior ventilation system will not permit smoking inside the workplace.
* The business owner/manager is responsible for removing all ashtrays, posting signs at all entrances informing customers that smoking is forbidden, and advising anyone smoking within the workplace that state law provides for a smoke-free environment.
The first violation may result in a fine not exceeding $100, the second climbs to $200, and any subsequent violation within one year may go up to $500. The city's police and health departments are currently charged with enforcement, but only on a complaint basis. All reports will be forwarded to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Bureau. Our local tobacco control project director is Alyonik Hrushow of the Department of Health, 1540 Market St., Room 250, San Francisco, CA 94102. His number is 554-9151.
According to sources in the SFPD legal office, the state has funded an investigative arm that will provide undercover agents to look into reports of violations.
More Legal Stuff
Here are some changes in other laws, effective this year:
* A mother may now breastfeed her child in any location, public or private (except the private home or residence of another) where the mother and child are authorized to be present.
* A peace officer may remove a vehicle, upon complaint, if an alarm device or horn has been activated, whether continuously or intermittently, and the officer is unable to locate the owner and silence the alarm within 20 minutes.
* So-called "identity theft" -- the use of the name, address, telephone number, driver's license number, social security number, place of employment, mother's maiden name, or credit card number without authorization -- is now a crime.
* Police can now give domestic violence restraining orders priority over other types of court orders, such as those giving a parent his or her child visitation rights. In addition, police officers are now allowed to obtain restraining orders in stalking cases.
* The state has increased the penalties for victim/witness intimidation.
My thanks to Officer Michael Paganini, who compiled the above information with the help of West's California Legislative Service.
Witnesses Come to the Rescue
The months of November and December each saw three reported robberies within my Noe Valley area.
On Nov. 13, an older woman living on the 1000 block of Sanchez Street was robbed and assaulted by a 30-year-old man who had gained entry to her home by claiming to be a massage therapist. The assault was classified as sexual because the suspect, under the guise of doing massage, touched the woman. He also took a small amount of money before leaving. The man was identified as a former driver for an elder care home. He was also on parole. The good news was: on Nov. 20 he was arrested and returned to state prison.
Another ray of sunlight in November was that many people in the community came to the aid of a 60-year-old woman whose purse was stolen on the 700 block of Douglass Street.
The purse snatch occurred on Nov. 17 at about 1:30 in the afternoon, and was witnessed by a man driving his car on Douglass Street. A letter carrier, delivering mail nearby, also heard the woman's screams and yelled at the fleeing suspect to drop the purse. The suspect complied, and the mail carrier retrieved and returned the purse to the woman.
With the witness driver in pursuit, the suspect then took off on foot north on Douglass, west on 23rd, back down to Douglass, and finally south to Elizabeth Street, where, according to another witness, he ran toward an accomplice car -- a blue Toyota 3MAR550 -- facing west on Elizabeth. The suspect sat on the car's hood, apparently to cover the front license plate, as the vehicle backed eastward down Elizabeth. When the getaway car reached Diamond Street, the suspect jumped inside it through a window, and the accomplices sped away north on Diamond to 21st Street, eventually losing their pursuers.
Meanwhile, the mail carrier had noted the car's license plate prior to the purse snatch, and relayed this information to police. The targeted woman left the scene before the police arrived, however, and her identity remained unknown last month. Anyone with information should contact the Robbery Detail at 553-1201.
In another incident, on Nov. 19 at about 11 p.m., a 23-year-old man was robbed of his hat and jacket while at the corner of 24th and Vicksburg streets. His assailant brandished a switchblade, then fled in a red Toyota Celica 145WRC. (A person who was driving by at the time saw the robbery and jotted down the license number.) The responding officers, Martha Juarez and Elena Teper, have identified the Toyota's driver through DMV and police criminal records and have put together a photo lineup. Unfortunately, they have been unable to contact the targeted man to ask him to view the photos.
2 Muggings and a 'Till Tap'
An intoxicated man reported that he was robbed while walking at Noe and 24th streets on Dec. 7 at 3:25 a.m., by a 25-year-old man who approached him from behind and stuck a hard object into the small of his back. After demanding and getting money, the suspect fled west on 24th Street.
A nail salon on Vicksburg Street was the site of a "till tap" (the sneaky theft of money from an opened cash register) that became a robbery/assault after the worker confronted the suspect and the suspect assaulted the worker before fleeing with the money. The incident happened Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m., and the worker recognized the suspect as a former customer.
A week later, an 88-year-old woman came to Mission Station to report that she was mugged while standing on the corner of 22nd and Dolores on Dec. 15 at around 4 p.m. Her attacker was a "tall, thin man" who struck her and threw her to the ground, causing bruising to her shoulder. He then fled with her money and jewelry.
In mid-January, there were still no arrests in these three cases.
D.A. Dismisses 3 Out of 4
The 35-year-old man arrested for burglarizing a home on the 700 block of Sanchez Street on Aug. 9, 1997, pled guilty and was sentenced on Dec. 10 to two years in state prison.
The case against a 51-year-old man arrested last October on charges of cruelty to a dependent adult has been dismissed. The district attorney's office stated it was "unable to sustain the burden of proof."
Another case -- this one against a 35-year-old man booked last August on charges of cohabitee abuse and vandalism to phone lines -- was dismissed for the same reason.
A man I arrested for shoplifting from the Just for Fun gift store on Dec. 3 was not rebooked. The case was dismissed "in the interest of justice."
Was Holiday Shopping Safer?
Did you see a few more police officers walking the beat along 24th Street during the holiday season? They were part of Police Chief Lau's and Commander Santos' Safe Shopper Program, which officers were able to sign up for on a four-hour overtime basis. My statistics showed a decrease in reported thefts during that period. Let my bosses at the SFPD know your thoughts about the program.
News Flash: In late January, a Voice staffer who lives near 30th Street reported that he was the victim of a scam. A door-to-door solicitor, who claimed to be a neighbor, asked for a donation to support a girls soccer team. The con artist then ran off with the resident's 20-dollar bill after pretending to fish for change.
The lesson is clear: Be sure you know who you're donating to, before you give.
As always, kudos to all of you who helped each other through difficult and dangerous incidents. Until next time, be safe and I'll see you on patrol.