California's Statewide Smoke-Free Air Laws

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The state of California has a number of smoke-free laws in place that include traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes as well as electronic smoking devices. Let's have a look at these laws below, keeping in mind that local laws may be more stringent. Learn more about smoke-free air laws at www.cdph.ca.gov/Tobacco.

Child/Day Care Centers: Smoking is prohibited within all licensed day care center, including private residences licensed as family day care homes.

Farmers' Markets: Smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of farmers' markets.

Foster and Group Homes: Smoking is prohibited within and outside these homes when children are present.

Government Buildings: Smoking is prohibited in all state, county and city government buildings and within 20 feet from their main exits, entrances or operable windows and in any passenger vehicle owned by the state.

Multi-Unit Housing: Smoking is prohibited in apartment and condo indoor commons spaces (e.g. hallways, stairwells, laundry rooms and recreation rooms).

Personal Vehicles: Smoking prohibited when children under age 18 is present in a motor vehicle, whether it is moving or stopped.

Public Transportation: Smoking prohibited.

Workplaces: Smoking is prohibited in all indoor workplaces, including bars, restaurants, offices, factories and warehouses. 

Youth Buses: Smoking is prohibited by operators of youth buses at all times.

Correctional Facilities: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited in all state correctional facilities. Tobacco products may be possessed in residential staff housing where inmates are not present.

Playgrounds and Youth Sports Events: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited within 25 feet of playgrounds, tot lot sandboxes and children's recreational areas, as well as within 250 feet of a youth sports event (including practices, games or related activities where kids up to age 18 are present).

Schools: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited in all school districts, charter schools and county offices of education, while students are under supervision. 

Looking to quit smoking? Find help at the California Smokers' Helpline, 1-800-NO-BUTTS or by visiting www.nobutts.org.

California Tobacco Facts and Figures 2019 from the California Department of Health

  • Adult tobacco use in California decline from 57.4% in 1988 to 10.1%, or 2.8 million adults, in 2017. The rest of the U.S. is at 17..1%.

  • There is a clear correlation between education and cigarette smoking. Just 6.7% of residents with a bachelor’s degree smoke, vs 16% for those without a high school degree.

  • Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties have a cigarette smoking rate of 9.6% in 2015-2017.

  • Youth cigarette use has dropped from 16% in 2002 to 2% in 2018, while the U.S. rate has dropped from 22.5% to 8.1%.

Hazardous Waste Disposal and Recycling Programs in Ventura County

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The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) website highlights common products that we use in our daily lives that contain potentially hazardous ingredients, thus requiring special care when disposed of.

Items that are banned from the trash are as follows:

Lights, Batteries and Electronics

  • Fluorescent light bulbs and tubes ("old school" incandescent bulbs can be thrown in the trash.). Remember that LED light bulbs and holiday light strands are considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of properly.

  • Batteries of all types and sizes, AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9-volt, etc., both rechargeable and single use, as well as lead-acid batteries such as car batteries

  • Computer and television monitors including cathode ray tube (CRT), liquid crystal diode (LCD), and plasma monitors

  • Electronic devices including computers, printers, VCRs, cell phones, telephones, radios and microwave ovens

Household and Landscape Chemicals

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  • Flammables and poisons such as oil-based paints and reactive and explosive materials

  • Acids, oxidizers, and bases including some pool chemicals and cleaners

  • Pesticides and herbicides

  • Paints and Solvents - latex paint, oil-based paint, non-empty aerosol paint and solvent cans, and solvents such as paint thinners, nail polish remover, etc.

  • Building materials that contain asbestos and wood treated with chromium copper arsenate.

  • Automobile items including antifreeze, batteries, motor oil and filters and tires (tires are not considered hazardous but are banned from the trash for other reasons)

  • Items Containing Mercury including electrical switches and relays in old appliances, old style thermostats, pilot light sensors in some gas appliances, some gauges and mercury thermometers

  • Other items such as propane tanks, hypodermic needles, syringes, expired/unwanted medications etc.

So what to do with these items? Recycle and reuse them! Here are some local Ventura County resident options:

The City of Thousand Oaks has a Hazardous Waste Disposal drop-off program at THIS LINK.

City of Thousand Oaks battery recycling centers at THIS LINK. Dropoff options as of December 2018 include Borchard Community Park (front entrance), Dos Vientos Community Center (front lobby), Goebel Senior Center (front lobby), T.O. Library (both entrances), Newbury Park Library (front entrance), T.O. City Hall (front entrance), T.O. Community Center (front entrance) and T.O. Transportation Center (lobby).

Fluorescent light bulbs can also be brought to any Home Depot store for disposal.

Thousand Oaks area computer and electronics recycling centers at THIS LINK.

Unwanted and/or expired medications can be dropped off throughout Ventura County at designated police stations. Details at THIS LINK.

City of Simi Valley hazardous Waste Drop-Off Program on six Saturdays per year at THIS LINK.

City of Simi Valley household battery recycling options at THIS LINK includes Simi Valley Public Library, G.I. Industries/Waste Management and Anderson Rubbish.

City of Camarillo twice a month hazardous waste drop-off events at THIS LINK.

City of Camarillo battery recycling options at THIS LINK (pdf doc) includes B&B Do-It Center, Camarillo Library, City Hall, Gold Coast Recycling and Camarillo Senior Center.

Cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme household hazardous waste collection events www.oxnard.org/household-hazardous-waste

Cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme Antifreeze, Batteries, Oil and Paint Recycling www.ci.port-hueneme.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=1022

City of Moorpark hazardous waste drop-off events www.moorparkca.gov/150/Hazardous-Waste

Ventura County needle collection facilities www.moorparkca.gov/179/Needle-Sharps-Disposal

City of Ventura hazardous waste collection events www.cityofventura.net/HHW

City of Ojai hazardous waste collection options at THIS LINK (pdf doc)

Cities of Santa Paula and Fillmore hazardous waste collection and battery recycling www.ci.santa-paula.ca.us/PubWorks/Recycling-WasteManagement.pdf

Hazardous waste collection in Agoura, Calabasas and Malibu at THIS LINK.

Identify Local Sex Offenders Using California Megan's Law Website

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California was the first state in the nation to initiate a Sex Offender Tracking Program in 1947, but until 1996, when California Megan's Law (CML) was initiated, information about sex offenders was not publicly available. 

Megan's Law is named after seven year old New Jersey girl Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed by a known molester who lived across the street from her family. All states now have a form of Megan's Law. On September 24, 2004, AB 488 was signed into law in California, providing the public Internet access to sex offender information at www.meganslaw.ca.gov.

This is a website that deserves a look, particularly by anyone who is a parent. While the website is not meant to "punish" sex offenders, it is a useful awareness tool. The search engine on the site allows you to search by name, address, city, zip and county, as well as within a two mile radius of parks and schools. You can also review the results of your search in both map and listing format.

Within seconds you can identify the 860 (as of April 2018) registered sex offenders in Ventura County, including photos, names, vital stats like date of birth, height and weight, their offenses and, where applicable, their addresses.

The information in the CML database is not always up to date for each individual. The severity of the offenses for each individual vary from the more violent (rape, battery) to statutory rape, indecent exposure, etc.

Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley Had the 7th and 9th Lowest Crime Rates Among Large Cities in 2016

In late September 2017, the FBI released its annual Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data for 2015. "Crime in the United States, 2016" compiles crime data from law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. The data includes violent crimes, consisting of murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and property crimes such as burglaries and thefts.

The overall U.S. violent crime rate grew 4.1% in 2016 (to 3.86 violent crimes per 1,000 inhabitants), the 2nd year in a row the rate increased. Overall property crimes declined 1.3% in 2016 (to 24.51 crimes per 1,000 inhabitants), the 14th year in a row the rate has dropped.

Four years ago, the crime rates were 3.87 (violent crimes) and 28.59 (property crimes).

We took a look at the data for approximately 300 cities in the U.S. with populations of 100,000 or more. The cities of Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks ranked 7th and 9th in the U.S (compared to 5th and 4th, respectively in 2015). and 1st and 2nd in California for the lowest overall crime rates among large cities in 2016. The top 10 lowest overall are shown in the table below:

Top ten lowest overall crime rates per 1,000 inhabitants in 2016; cities with population of 100,000 or more (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Data).

Top ten lowest overall crime rates per 1,000 inhabitants in 2016; cities with population of 100,000 or more (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Data).

Simi Valley's rate increased from 13.23 in 2015 to 13.67 in 2016 while Thousand Oaks' rate increased from 13.23 to 14.25.

Taking a look at solely violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, assault), Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley dropped to 20th (12th in 2015) and 23rd (26th in 2015), respectively.

Top 10 lowest crime rates per 1,000 inhabitants in 2016; cities with population of 100,000 or more (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Data).

Top 10 lowest crime rates per 1,000 inhabitants in 2016; cities with population of 100,000 or more (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Data).

Let's take a look at other Ventura County cities of all sizes to see where they stand.

Overall crime rates per 1,000 inhabitants in Ventura County and adjacent cities in 2016 (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Data.) (Excludes unincorporated communities.)

Overall crime rates per 1,000 inhabitants in Ventura County and adjacent cities in 2016 (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Data.) (Excludes unincorporated communities.)

All Ventura County cities, with the exception of Oxnard and Ventura, fell below national averages for both violent and property crime rates in 2016.

The crime rates for most all Ventura County cities dropped in 2016 vs 2015, with the exception of Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley. 

Note: The FBI cautions comparative use of this data for drawing conclusions by making direct comparisons between cities. Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Keep this in mind when reviewing this data, which is summed up here for informational purposes only.

STTOP: Sheriff's Teen Traffic Offender Program - 877.310.STOP

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STTOP is an intervention program developed by the Lost Hills/Malibu Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to educate young drivers and their parents.

The goal of STTOP is to correct reckless behavior and other bad driving practices. The program is designed to intervene when a young driver displays poor judgment or dangerous driving behavior. Aside from following up on collision reports and citations issued, STTOP encourages citizens to call in and report dangerous teen driver (or report them online at www.sttop.net/report_a_driver.htm.

Too many times, patrol officers are not present to see dangerous driving. The inability to catch an offender in the act ties the hands of law enforcement, which cannot act on a vehicle code infraction they do not witness. After an incident is reported to STTOP, a designated deputy sheriff will make personal contact with the offender and his or her parents in effort to correct the dangerous behavior. The goal of STTOP is not to prosecute offenders, but to make teens better, safer drivers, which in turns benefits our community.

If you see dangerous driving or reckless behavior by young drivers, report it to STTOP at 877.310.STOP (7867) or 818.880.5420.  The call may save lives.  STTOP is currently in use throughout the Conejo Valley, Agoura Hills, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Malibu, Calabasas, Ojai, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Camarillo, Oak Park and other locations.

For more information, visit www.sttop.net.

Cities and corporate sponsors have made STTOP possible. Additional donations can be made to The Malibu Lost Hills Sheriff's Booster Club (STTOP),  a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Your donations are tax deductible.

How to Place a "Security Freeze" on Your Credit File in the State of California

The State of California Office of the Attorney General's office has details about how to put a "security freeze" on your credit file so that your file cannot be shared with potential creditors. California law requires credit bureaus to offer security freezes as a way to combat identity theft.

Why would you want to do a security freeze? To stop identity theft in its tracks! If you FREEZE your credit file, someone who has stolen your personal information will be much less likely to open a new credit card or loan in your name.

Establishing a credit freeze is a bit of a hassle in that you have to place the freeze with all three of the major credit bureaus, then you may need to "un-freeze" the credit from time to time when you are interested in refinancing, getting a new credit card, a car loan, etc. But it may well be worth it...think of the time and stress of dealing with identity theft after it has happened!

A security freeze is free to those Californians who have a police report of identity theft or who are age 65 or older. If you are not an identity theft victim and you are under 65 years of age, it will cost you $10 to place a freeze with each of the three credit bureaus, for a total of $30. 

Placing a Security Freeze

You can request a security freeze by mail or online. Let's stick to online freezes here. Credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion each have websites for security freezes:

Follow the instructions given and your credit will be locked within minutes. They will ask for your full name, Social Security number, complete addresses for the past two years and date of birth. Then you may be asked to confirm information on your credit report, such as the duration of an auto loan, the amount of a loan, the date you entered a loan, a prior employer, etc. You will need a credit card to pay for the cost of the freeze.

TransUnion requires you to create an account to initiate the freeze. The others, at least one I signed up, did not require this additional step.

As part of the process you will establish a Personal Information Number (PIN) with each bureau. It is important to safeguard this PIN to remove the freeze when needed. Equifax create a 10 digit PIN on my behalf without giving me the option to create my own. Experian gave me the option of creating my own PIN or assigning one to me. TransUnion required me to create my own 6 digit, numeric only PIN. Everyone's gotta be different, don't they.

Lifting a Freeze Temporarily or Removing a Freeze

OK, so you have a security freeze in place, that's great! But now you need a car loan or are applying for credit or insurance, refinancing, filling out a rental form, etc and you need to unlock your credit for these purposes. Using your PIN, you can lift the freeze for a period of time or for a specific creditor. Lifting the freeze will cost you $10 if you are under age 65, $5 if you are 65 or older and free if you are a victim of identity theft (yes, there is a small perk to having your identify stolen).

It is FREE to remove a freeze on a permanent basis.

Lift or remove a freeze at the three credit bureaus:

Learn more at oag.ca.gov/idtheft/facts/freeze-your-credit.

Keep in mind that a security freeze DOES NOT prevent someone from finding a way to make charges to your existing credit cards and bank accounts through illegal skimming, phishing, hacking and other means. You must remain vigilant. This means watch out for skimming machines, shred your credit/debit card and other personal information, monitor your bank and credit card activity frequently, etc.

Security freeze laws vary by state. More information at consumersunion.org/research/security-freeze.

Why Posting Your Birthday on Facebook is Not Such a Good Idea

You have 250 Facebook friends ranging from close family members, childhood playmates, high school classmates, frat house buddies, workplace acquaintances and other random people. Some you know well, others not so much. 

Never before have birthdays been so exciting. In your Facebook notifications settings, you can be prompted as to your friends' birthdays automatically. Or if you click your Friends section and click Birthdays, you can see "Friends with Upcoming Birthdays."  It's fun to see 97 people write "Happy Birthday!" on your wall on your birthday!

But think about it. Do you really want your birth date, a key component of your personal information that can be used for identity theft, openly displayed on your Facebook page?

At lunch today, a friend told me that someone was able to find out his political party, but he didn't know how that happened.

In many counties, voter records are maintained online. Ventura County in fact makes it really easy to find out if you are a registered voter, when you registered and your political affiliation. All they ask for is your first and last name and your birth date. The Voter Eligibility Search is at recorder.countyofventura.org/elections/voter-lookups/am-i-a-registered-voter/#VoterEligibilitySearch.

This friend just so happens to show his birthday on his personal Facebook page. Just month and day, no year. While I didn't know what year he was born in, it took me only two guesses to log in to his voting record. This would not have been so easy had it not been for his posting his birth date to Facebook.

So unless you are interested in making it that much easier to have your identity stolen or personal information discovered, it's probably not a good idea to post your birthday to Facebook. Your real friends will remember your birthday. They either have it memorized or written down somewhere. Or maybe you can give them a hint.

There's a way to restrict access to your birthday on your Facebook page by going to "Contact and Basic Info" => "Basic Information" and clicking the lock icon next to your birthday. You can select Public, Friends, "Only Me" or Custom. "Only Me" is my option of choice. But of course my birthday comes and goes and I don't receive the Facebook-prompted birthday wishes that my friends receive.

Finding one's voter registration status in Los Angeles County at www.lavote.net/vrstatus requires slightly more work than in Ventura County. You need Last Name, Birthdate, House Number and Zip Code. 

More information about how to recover from identity theft

How to place a credit a "security freeze" on your credit file