Q: The police had a perimeter around my block a while back and would not let me into my house for several hours. Is there a way the police can let me into the house during this situation?

A: Every once in a while you may see a police perimeter in your neighborhood. A perimeter is when police surround a certain area and are usually looking for a suspect(s). It can be as small as a few houses to as large as many blocks. This can occur in any area in Santa Monica and at any time for a wide range of reasons (people running from the police, person barricaded in a house, hazardous materials, etc.). If you see a perimeter with police surrounding the area, you should not approach the officer and ask what is going on or hang out in the area to watch. Usually when a police perimeter is being set up, we are looking for someone who committed a serious crime, and it could involve someone who committed violent offenses.

Should you live inside the perimeter and are caught outside of it, you will not be allowed to enter until the operation is complete. The officers would like nothing more than to allow you into your residence, but your safety is our main concern. Contacting the officer could endanger yourself and the officer, who is watching the area for the suspect(s), and if the officer is distracted, the suspect(s) may use this as an opportunity to escape or attack the officer or the citizen. If necessary, go to a friend’s house or restaurant and wait it out. You can call our front desk officer at (310) 458-8495 periodically and check if the perimeter is still ongoing. Unless it is an emergency, please refrain from calling our dispatch center as they will be very busy assisting the field officers in setting up the perimeter. Walking around while the perimeter is in progress is not recommended as the suspect(s) may still be in the area, or police officers may mistake you for a suspect. Only approach an officer when things appear stable, and the officer will let you know if you are able to enter the perimeter to go home. Once the perimeter is done, the officers will be more than happy to give you any information they can.

If you are inside your home and want to know what’s going on, the best course of action would be stay in your house and lock all the windows and doors. While officers are searching the area, they may be using K-9s and SWAT. You should secure your family pets in the house or dog run because officers may need to search your yard. If you hear anything outside your residence or business, you should call 911 and inform the police dispatcher. The dispatcher will then relay the information to the officers, and they will take the appropriate action. We thank you for your understanding ahead of time.

Q: A friend of mine told me we can’t use the speaker phone on a cell phone while driving. Is this true?

A: You can use the speaker phone on your cell phone while driving, but it can’t be held in your hand. The California Vehicle Code section states the following:

• 23123 (a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking and is used in that manner while driving.

• (b) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.

• (c) This section does not apply to a person using a wireless telephone for emergency purposes, including, but not limited to, an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department or other emergency services agency or entity.

I have stopped people driving and holding their cell phone while talking on the phone in speaker mode. In fact, I would argue talking in speaker mode and holding it in front of your face is more distracting. The intent of this law was to prevent people from being distracted. If you like using the speaker mode, have the phone mounted in your vehicle so it doesn’t impede your vision, and you can carry on your conversation. Cordless devices are now also becoming more inexpensive and can be purchased for less than $10 if you hunt around.

Vacation tips

With summer fast approaching, it would be wise to protect your family and property while away on a family vacation. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your trip:

Before you leave

• Inform your neighbors of how long you expect to be away. Inform them if you will have a house sitter.

• Have a friend or neighbor pick up mail and/or deliveries. Make arrangements to have the lawn mowed and leaves picked up.

• Simulate a “lived-in” appearance by using timers to run lights and a radio on and off during expected hours.

Handling money

• Never carry large amounts of cash; use travelers’ checks. If you must carry a large sum of money, do not openly display it.

• Keep a record of your travelers’ check numbers and your credit card numbers in a safe place. Have the telephone numbers to call in case your checks or credit cards are lost or stolen.

• Take only credit cards that you actually plan to use. Make a photo copy of all your cards before you leave home so you have a record of the card numbers.

• Be aware of your surroundings and never advertise your plans to strangers. This includes travel route and amount of cash you are carrying.

Today’s column was prepared by NRO Scott Pace (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, I-10 Frwy to Ozone Avenue). Contact him at (424) 200-0682 or scott.pace@smgov.net.