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Six surveillance camera towers were erected in Isla Vista on non-university owned property in the wake of recent violent crimes and as Deltopia approaches this weekend, in addition to two surveillance cameras placed temporarily on university property at Embarcadero Hall and I.V. Theater.
The cameras, five of which are located on Del Playa Drive with a sixth located near Freebirds, will remain on a temporary basis until June, when community leaders will deliberate on whether or not to keep them. Last quarter, similar camera installations were placed on university property following two sexual assaults that occurred in Isla Vista in late February. Even though they are installed on public property, the university is paying for the cameras; however, administrators are not saying how much is being spent on them.
The installations are each 25 feet tall and feature large lamps hanging off the tower to illuminate the surrounding area. The cameras are stationary and not continuously monitored, although they do record video continuously and may be accessed as evidence for reported crimes.
According to Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Marc Fisher, the cameras that are not on campus property are paid for by the university, but are under the jurisdiction of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
“[The Sheriff’s Office] is responsible for the placement and operation of the cameras,” Fisher said in an email. “UCSB is providing funding resources to the County for these cameras. This funding is consistent with other contributions that we have made in Isla Vista for safety, including additional lighting and policing.”
However, Fisher said the university does not have access to the cameras’ footage, as viewing and using this material (such as for crime investigation) is being left to local law enforcement. Although, the university does have access to footage from cameras erected on campus.
Fisher would not specify how much is being spent on the new cameras, although he said “the campus is not utilizing student fees to pay for the noted cameras.”
According to Kelly Hoover, Public Information Officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, the cameras along Del Playa Drive were installed in light of recent sexual assaults in Isla Vista and in part due to upcoming Deltopia festivities.
“My understanding is that … they were installing the cameras already following the sexual assault,” Hoover said. “Deltopia was coming up, [so] they said ‘Would it be helpful to install some for Deltopia and due to the other crimes that you’re seeing?’”
While Hoover said the cameras are not solely for Deltopia, she said law enforcement are looking to them as another tool for regulating this weekend’s festivities.
“So it wasn’t just for Deltopia, but the timing was good for this event that last year drew 15,000 to 18,000 people, and we had a lot of incidents [in] that event,” Hoover said.
However, Isla Vista Foot Patrol Station Lieutenant Rob Plastino said the installations in Isla Vista are primarily a part of the response to recent sexual assaults in Isla Vista, but will only be continuously monitored throughout Deltopia.
“The cameras were not placed to monitor Deltopia,” Plastino said in an email. “They are in response to the recent sexual assaults that have taken place in I.V. and the campus. “
Nonetheless, Plastino also said the cameras will be used to monitor Deltopia.
“The cameras will be used during Deltopia and will be monitored during Deltopia,” Plastino said. “After Deltopia, the cameras will not be monitored live unless some event prompts law enforcement to use them. Otherwise, they’ll be recording video and used to help solve crimes that do occur in the I.V. area.”
According to Plastino the IVFP has used cameras in the past, such as during Halloween weekend in order to aid law enforcement efforts to monitor large crowds.
“We have solved crimes and stopped assaults during Halloween due to the cameras,” Plastino said in an email. “Over the past few years, we have had an increase in the use of video footage taken by witnesses with their cell phones, to solve crimes.”
Hoover also said that the cameras are placed along Del Playa and in the business district of Isla Vista because these areas typically feature the highest law enforcement activity.
The cameras have been installed for two main reasons, according to Hoover, which is as a “crime deterrent” and as a means for investigating crimes that are not already prevented.
“If somebody is considering committing a crime and they look up and see those cameras, and it makes them think twice about doing that, then that is a success,” Hoover said. “The other reason is, if somebody does commit a crime and we are able to view the video and help find the perpetrator or perpetrators, then that also is a huge success.”
While the cameras are temporary for now, Hoover said local police officers may continue using them, depending on how this current trial period goes.
“This is an experiment,” Hoover said. “We want to see how effective they are.”
Hoover said the decision in June regarding whether or not to keep the cameras will involve discussion amongst a number of community leaders and law enforcement agencies.
She said, “I don’t have a list of people, but it would seem the university, the Sheriff’s Office, the County, … UCSB Police, the first responders, County Fire, CHP, public works, anybody who’s involved in this event that’s providing safety and overseeing Isla Vista I would think would be a part of it.”
-Daniel Slovinsky contributed to this article.
Photos by Peter Vandenbelt, Alex Gonzalez / Daily Nexus
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.