Undercover Police Issue Citations at House Parties

The Isla Vista Foot Patrol is now using undercover operations to enter local house parties and bust partygoers for minor alcohol crimes, and at least two sting operations took place at parties on Sabado Tarde this past weekend.

On Friday night, three officers walked into a party and issued multiple citations for minor in possession. The police officers were dressed as partygoers carrying an empty case of beer before they found underage individuals who were in illegal possession of alcohol. While the officers entered a private residence to issue the citations, IVFP Lt. Robert Plastino said they are legally allowed to do this if the party is open to the public, where “people from the street can come and go as they please.” Plastino also said the new operations are currently being conducted in adherence to terms outlined by a state grant given to IVFP by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC.

The undercover operations have been ongoing since fall when IVFP first received the grant from ABC, according to Plastino, who said the operations are expected to continue for the rest of the school year and into the next year.

Plastino said a party that is clearly open to the street is considered a ‘public venue’ to law enforcement, including undercover cops. He said students and local residents who host parties where underage partygoers are consuming alcohol should be cautious of opening up their party to the general public.

“If they won’t follow the law, then my other suggestion would be for them to stay inside, don’t host an open party, and invite only people they know,” Plastino said in an email. “Keeping their door closed is a pretty clear indication it’s a private party, and we will not ever knock on the door and pretend to be students to gain entry.”

Several UCSB students who live in the upstairs’ unit of 6615 Sabado Tarde, one of the houses targeted by undercover police agents last Friday night, said they doubted whether or not deputies acted within the boundaries of the law.

Bjorn, a third-year UCSB student who would not release his last name, said a group of about 15 to 20 of his close friends were celebrating his 21st birthday when they noticed “three strange-looking older men” walking up the stairs to their patio.

“We tried to figure out who they were. We were questioning each other, ‘Who are these people?’” Bjorn said. “People were about to talk to them and ask who they were, but before any of that, all of the sudden, they pulled out their badges and started to just single people out and ask for IDs.”

Bjorn’s roommate, Nick Fields, a UCSB third-year English major, said the men held up an empty 30-rack before walking up the stairs, even after no one gave them permission to enter.

“He just held up the 30-rack as if it was his invitation in,” Fields said. “No one said come up. They just walked in.”

Fields said a friend of his started to film the police when they revealed themselves and asked questions, such as whether or not the party was in violation of a noise ordinance.

“The cops got really mad and told him to put it away and then made him leave,” Fields said. “After the kid left, the cop turned to the other and said, ‘The kid had like 20,000 questions, what’s his deal?’”

Fields said police did not seem concerned with underage individuals consuming alcohol so much as they did about giving out tickets.

“They didn’t confiscate any alcohol — they could care less whether we were drinking underage or not,” Fields said. “They didn’t give us a lecture about why it is bad or why it is against the law. They basically acted like, ‘Carry on, keep drinking.’”

The ABC grant includes undercover operations called “party patrols,” but Plastino said the greater focus of the grant is to target local businesses such as liquor stores.

“We do not simply target residents. In fact, much of the grant operations center on heavy enforcement of the businesses that sell alcohol to minors, and to people that purchase for minors,” Plastino said in an email. “But, as you are now hearing, it also targets party hosts that serve alcohol to minors and to any minors in possession.”

Plastino said that residents should refrain from serving alcohol to minors and consider checking the identification of unknown party guests.

“I understand how it might be difficult to get residents to start IDing partygoers, but the fact is that you cannot just throw a party, open to the public, start pouring alcohol to minors, and have no repercussion for such action,” Plastino said in an email.

While he said IDing people entering private house parties would likely be “unpopular,” Plastino also said that not doing this could mean huge penalties for party hosts, such as the revoking of one’s driver’s license.

“They risk a pretty significant citation and other administrative penalties, which can include losing their driver’s license for a year,” Plastino said.


An undercover officer reveals his badge to a minor,  cited for underage drinking.  These disguised officers are also coming down hard on the party hosts and  local businesses that providie minors with alcohol.

An undercover officer reveals his badge to a minor,
cited for underage drinking. These disguised officers are also coming down hard on the party hosts and
local businesses that provide minors with alcohol.

Photo courtesy of reddit user CEEJB.

The initial publication of this story incorrectly stated that Lt. Plastino said undercover police could enter parties so long as the “door is open,” but Plastino in fact meant only parties that are open to the street in which “people from the street can come and go as they please.” The article has been updated to reflect this error.

A version of this story appeared on page 3 of Monday, April 21, 2014′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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  1. FormerIVStudent says:

    Undercover cops are violating the US Constitution under the 5th amendment right against unlawful search and seizure. They have a federal law under 42 U.S.C. 1983 they are violating too, that’s a violation of your federal civil rights under color of state law. If you get a ticket for this as described above file a law suit in the Superior Court or better yet in federal court and a few of these cases go to trial and I bet this infringement against our first amendment right to associate [party] will stop. Cops can cite you for underage drinking, but if your over 18 [an adult] you a presumed innocent until proven guilty…even if your under 21 years old. That means your entitled to a trial of your peers so demand a jury too. Use your first amendment right to petition the government, that’s what your law suit is. Your free speech is protected, the government’s [cop's] isn’t.

    • Johnn Scheid says:

      *Typographical error.

      You meant to write:

      “[Undercover cops are violating the US Constitution under the]

  2. Just brick ‘em

  3. Well, there goes any cooperation between students and police. Great job IVFP.

  4. The reality is… if you don’t like the laws of the land you live within then do something to change said law(s). Otherwise, move out and find a different region of the world which suits your fancies. Alcohol has, and shall remain, the number one draw for Isla Vista parties and, as a consequence, the number one cause of its crime.

    How about Americans quit whining and work for a living. Furthermore, how about Americans quit blaming everyone else for their mistakes. A measure of a man is taken by his deeds not his whining or misgivings.

    Also, wishing ill on people is ignorant… I don’t care if it is the cops you hate or the Isla Vista partiers. Quit being a self-absorbed destroyer. Instead be a builder/contributor within your community… your society… your country. We have enough destroyers here in America… we desperately need builders!

    • Don’t be such a twit. When was the last time you were able to change anything that had to do with the way cops act? we don’t have a proper democracy its an oligarchy. we the people have a voice… sort of that falls on deaf politicians ears because they are to busy listening to the corporations that line their pockets with cash.

    • you’re right, no one in America works ever

    • laggart bob says:

      Reality has been watching too much Fox News.

  5. And they wonder why someone threw moltov cocktails at their building and why one of their brothers got knocked in the head with a bottle. None of us voted on these fucking BS laws that are in place. Our parents, people the same age as the police chief were drinking beers when they were in High School LEGALLY. how the fuck are they gonna tell us otherwise. Students need to get off their damn computers and stand up to these con artists and make a change.

    • Bob Sumner says:

      I believe the solution would begin by seeking, through the established legal process, home rule for The City of Isla Vista.
      Then we could vote for our own laws, mayor and City Council like in a democracy. That is the last thing Santa Barbara County and UCSB want to see happen. They enjoy running Isla Vista as a colony to use as their own cash cow and resource for taxes to flow out of IV to Santa Barbara.
      Those already in power seeks more power and more control. This home rule process for Isla Vista, which has previously been attempted here and failed is initiated through Santa Barbara County LAFCO

  6. Forrest Liu says:

    You’re still allowed to ask them to leave your house

  7. I remember back in 2007 in the days Rebelution had free concerts – and there were free kegs everywhere and cops wouldn’t trip if they saw younger folks drinking. As long as nobody was fighting or destroying shit – we could have done whatever we wanted. Sadly – i believe the chill/good times in IV are nothing but a distant memory.

  8. Just because your door is open does not give the police a right to enter your residence. For example,what if you’ve just returned from the grocery store and are going back and forth to your car? Or what if you are expecting some invited guests to arrive and are leaving the door open for them? Or what if a guest leaves your residence and leaves the door open? Has your guest just surrendered your 4 Amendment rights?

    Lt. Plastino was kind enough to offer some suggestions to avoid police entering your home. I have a suggestion of my own:

    Place a prominent sign next to your door that expressly says that police need a warrant to enter your home. Police are NOT invited and you are restricting them from entering. Indicate in writing that your residence is not open to the public and that an open door does not signal that anyone may enter.

    Someone get the ACLU on the horn. To me, this practice smells unconstitutional as well as a horrible use of resources and a case study in poor community policing. The IV Foot Patrol seems to be doing their best to breed resentment among the residents of Isla Vista.

    • They actually are allowed to enter your home if they see you breaking the law. So if you leave your door open while snorting a line of coke, they can come in and bust our ass. Minors drinking alcohol isn’t any different.

      • So how do they know that the people drinking are underage? Couldn’t they just pull over every car because they have a suspicion that the driver is under 16? Doesn’t work that way.

  9. over 21 in IV says:

    More of the same piggish sheriff activities. That’s why we almost all hate the cops in IV. They can’t solve actual crimes. No one will cooperate with them except their stool pigeons. All they can do is pick on us like the thugs and cowards they are.

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