Bay Area Briefs

Friday September 06, 2002

Belmont police make first arrest with electric car 

BELMONT – Less than a week after the Ford Motor Company announced it would discontinue its Think electric car, the Belmont Police Department made its first arrest with the high-tech vehicle. 

Belmont police officer Chris Ledwith was cruising around the Twin Pines Park on Wednesday afternoon in the Think car--which police say resembles a golf cart both in appearance and performance--when he noticed smoke coming from the west end of the park. 

With a nearly silent motor and wide tires, Ledwith was able to drive over a dirt path and sneak up on a man who was stoking an illegal fire in a barbecue pit with leaves and sticks. 

“I never heard you coming,” protested 51-year-old Christopher Strei, who was arrested after police discovered that he was wanted for a theft in his hometown of Redwood City. 

Hayward Ford donated the car to Belmont Police last Thursday, a day before Ford Motor Company announced that it was giving up on the Think car after an investment of $123 million. 


Oakland woman surrenders  

on workers’ comp fraud 

OAKLAND – A 52-year-old Oakland woman who collected $41,000 in workers' compensation benefits after an allegedly illegitimate claim that she injured her back on the job has surrendered to authorities. 

Jeanette Deran surrendered Wednesday on a $70,000 arrest warrant charging her with committing workers' compensation insurance fraud, according to Scott Edelen, a spokesman for the state Department of Insurance. Deran is charged with six counts of felony insurance fraud, two counts of perjury, and two counts of grand theft. 

If convicted, Deran could face up to five years in state prison or a maximum fine of $50,000, or both. 

Deran allegedly reported to her employer that she injured her back on Oct. 28, 1997, Edelen said. She allegedly made false statements as to the severity of her injury to obtain additional benefits to which she would not have been entitled. 

Deran was videotaped doing activities she claimed she was unable to do as a result of her injury, Edelen said, and allegedly made false statements at her sworn deposition. 


Port talks yield benefits accord 

SAN FRANCISCO — Shipping lines and West Coast dock workers tentatively have agreed to a new benefits package, a sign that even as contract negotiations drag on neither side is ready for crippling labor unrest. 

Both sides signed the benefits agreement Wednesday evening, a day after rhetoric from shipping lines and the longshoremen’s union made trouble on the waterfront sound imminent. 

Spokesmen for both sides confirmed the agreement, but would not discuss its details Thursday. 

“Nothing is finalized until the whole package is done, but the idea is that the issue is resolved,” said Steve Stallone, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. 

The union and the Pacific Maritime Association reached a similar accord during the weekend before a dispute over arbitration led to a breakdown in talks and a lapse in the contract. Brinksmanship followed — the union said it could stage a work slowdown, and the shipping lines promised a lockout in response. 

On Thursday, Stallone reiterated that because the union was not renewing the contract on a short-term basis, it legally could take a job action such as a slowdown. 


SF activists say  

Navy sonar kills whales 

The San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute stepped up its attack against the Bush Administration with a full-page ad in the New York Times protesting a whale-killing sonar system. 

The ad appeared in Wednesday's Times with the following question and answer: “How do whales tell us we're doing something wrong? They swim up on the beach and die.” 

Institute director David Phillips said the U.S. Navy's Low Frequency Active Sonar, which detects enemy submarines by sending sound pulses through the ocean, has killed whales in the Bahamas with a noise that he compares to “standing next to a Saturn V rocket on takeoff.” 

The Bush Administration has approved the sonar as long as certain modifications are made that Phillips say will not make a difference for the whales. 

“The Bush Administration's proposed ‘mitigation’ plan for the sonar is a complete sham,” Phillips said. “The Navy is trying to whitewash the deadly effects of LFA sonar by proposing an ‘If we don't see it, we don't harm it,’ approach to blasting the oceans with deafening sounds.”