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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | CRIME WATCH

County Aims for Nonfatal Labor Day Weekend

September 04, 2000|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

Seven isn't just a good goal in craps.

The local office of the California Highway Patrol is hoping that Ventura County drivers can make this the seventh consecutive Labor Day weekend with no fatalities.

As of Sunday night, there were 20 drunk-driving arrests so far this holiday weekend and at least two crashes involving alcohol.

"If you're on the road over the Labor Day weekend, buckle up and watch your speed," CHP Commissioner D. O. "Spike" Helmick Jr. advised.

Be warned that every available officer is on the road until midnight tonight. So if you go anywhere to party today, get a designated driver.

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Teachers aren't the only ones dishing out lessons this month.

For the second consecutive year, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department has released its back-to-school checklist for students and parents.

Deputies want their safety plan to put a dent in society's worst crimes--those involving children. If families take time to discuss a few simple rules, horrific cases like kids being snatched or hit by cars can decrease.

"We had two kids the other day who thought someone was breaking into their house," Senior Deputy Jim Aguirre said. "They ran upstairs to a bedroom, locked the door and called police. When we arrived, they were able to give us all the information we needed to reach their parents."

In this case, which involved two 9-year-old latchkey kids, the youths did all the right things, Aguirre said.

Other important tips include choosing safe routes for kids to walk to school and having them walk in groups instead of alone. Cops warned students to avoid vacant lots, obey traffic signs and check with a parent if their schedule changes.

The most critical lesson, deputies say, is for parents to tell their children not to talk to strangers.

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Here's an unfortunate twist on the bargain matinee.

Nearly two dozen moviegoers at the Century 16 Theater in east Ventura have been the victims of vehicle burglary in the last few months, police say.

Burglars have been cruising the parking lot off Johnson Drive and robbing unlocked cars or breaking into vehicles in which personal property has been left out in the open on a seat, police say.

In a couple of cases, cops say, the thieves struck after watching women put their purses in their trunks before heading into a flick. The stolen loot also includes cell phones, fanny packs and backpacks.

While such thefts have occurred in the past at cinema complexes across the city, authorities say this spree has been the worst in a while. So far, there have been no arrests, but authorities say movie buffs can help.

"Vehicle license plates and suspect descriptions are always helpful to the police as long as you can obtain them safely," Ventura Police Cpl. Terri Vujea said.

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If at first you don't succeed in criminal court, try, try again in civil.

That's what prosecutors did after an Oxnard trucking company owner was acquitted early last year of running a shop with a long, documented history of reportedly shaky business practices.

The list of claims in the civil lawsuit against Shawn R. Campbell included employing drivers with suspended or revoked licenses, using unsafe trucks and falsifying certificates of correction for "fix-it" tickets.

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Campbell, the owner of Tri-County Builders Supply, settled the suit last week by agreeing to pay a $20,000 fine and comply with all laws.

Prosecutors said they are satisfied with the lawsuit's outcome.

"I certainly hope he is in compliance now. If he isn't, I'm sure the Highway Patrol will discover that," Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael D. Schwartz said.

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Holly J. Wolcott can be reached at 653-7581 or at holly.wolcott@latimes.com

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