Q: I was at the gas station the other day when a man approached me and said he could repair my chipped/cracked windshield for a small fee. The man was very persistent and I didn’t feel comfortable talking to him about repairing my vehicle because the gas station does not have an area to repair cars. Is it illegal to drive a car with a cracked windshield? Should I trust someone who tries to sell me something while I am getting gas?

A: Section 26710 of the California Vehicle Code states:

“It is unlawful to operate any motor vehicle upon a highway when the windshield or rear window is in such a defective condition as to impair the driver’s vision either to the front or rear.”

Depending on the location/size of the chip or crack in the windshield, your vehicle could be in violation of this code. However, if you are approached by an individual who is soliciting any type of service while you are pumping gas or visiting another business, you should check with the owner, manager or employee of the business to see if this individual has permission to be on the property. If an employee or agent of the business is not available, tell the solicitor you are not interested in their services and check with the management at a later time. If the solicitor is persistent or begins to inspect your vehicle after you refuse, tell the solicitor you will call the police if they continue to inspect or touch your vehicle.

If you are curious and want information about windshield repair, there are several licensed businesses that can offer estimates (free in most cases) on the need and cost of the repair.

Q: I own a business in Santa Monica and almost every morning when I come to work I have to ask homeless people to get off my property. I call the police every time but these people leave before the police arrive. Is there anything I can do to let these folks know I don’t want them on my property when the business is closed?

A: Because the closed business is still considered private property, the police need your permission to go on to the property and ask a person to leave. If someone is trespassing on the property and you want them arrested, you first need to advise them they are trespassing. If the person refuses to leave after being warned, then a private person’s arrest is needed to remove an unwanted individual from the property.

A private person’s arrest (commonly referred to as a citizen’s arrest) is needed when certain misdemeanor crimes (like trespassing) are committed and an officer is not present to witness the crime. When a private person’s arrest is requested, an officer will examine what has occurred and determine if the arrest is legal. If the arrest is legal, then the officer will present the victim with a private person’s arrest form to sign. Once the form is completed, the officer will take the offender into custody and complete all necessary paperwork.

Another way to address people camping, loitering or sleeping on private property is to file a trespass letter with the Santa Monica Police Department. A trespass letter is a way for the owner (or agent of a property) to give police authority to enter the property and remove those who are trespassing when the business (or a property that is not open to the general public) is closed. A trespass letter is completed by the owner or agent of the property and kept on file with the police department for a minimum of 30 days. Once the trespass letter is on file, officers can conduct checks of the property when it is closed to the general public and remove people who do not belong on the property.

Any business or property owner who is having a problem with homeless related issues or individuals trespassing on their property, and want additional information on trespass letters, can contact the SMPD Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) at (310) 458-8953. Once the trespass letter is completed, an officer will instruct the business/property owner on how to file it with the police department. This specialized unit works with community and government resources to assist those in need in getting back on their feet. Or, as always, anyone can contact their neighborhood resource officer (NRO) for addition information.

Community Events

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? The Main Street Business Improvement Association is hosting the 10th Annual Main Street Summer SOULstice Festival on Sunday, June 27, 2010 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be 24 live bands on 6 stages, lots of great food, children’s activities, and sidewalk sales all along Main Street. For those shoppers who cannot wait until Sunday, the sidewalk sales will begin on Saturday. For details about the festival, visit the Main Street Merchant’s website at www.mainstreetsm.com.

This column was prepared by NRO Artis Williams, Beat 7 (Sunset Park). He can be reached at (424) 200-0687 or via e-mail: artis.williams@smgov.net.