The UCSB Police Department (UCPD) in conjunction with Associated Students hosted Pizza with Police last night at Pizza My Heart in effort to address students’ concerns about law enforcement and community safety for this coming weekend’s Deltopia event.
The event followed a similar structure to the gathering with law enforcement preceding Halloween. UCPD Lieutenant Mark Signa led the discussion, and four other officers attended to answer students’ questions in smaller groups. Deputies from Isla Vista Foot Patrol were initially expected to attend, but did not make an appearance. Questions about the I.V. noise ordinance, parking restrictions and roadblocks and the high number of cops brought in for Deltopia dominated the event.
Signa opened the event by detailing the parking restrictions on Del Playa and Sabado Tarde, and encouraged students to buy on-campus parking permits and said the event’s purpose was to foster open dialogue.
“The whole point of tonight is really just an opportunity for me to talk to you about Deltopia and what we are doing there,” Signa said. “It’s also — more importantly — for me to be available to you to answer any questioning.”
Alumnus and UCPD officer Alexis Dougherty said Pizza with Police is good way to educate students on Deltopia and other law enforcement matters.
“If they have any questions about what’s going to go on this weekend, they can feel free to come up to us and ask openly,” Dougherty said.
Stephanie Oliveira, a first-year global studies major, said she came to the event to better understand what Deltopia will be like.
“This is my first year here, so I don’t really know what to expect at Deltopia,” Oliveira said. “I’m hoping this will give me more information on what is going to happen and on how I can make it safe.”
Shiva Mozaffarian, a fourth-year biology major who had an involved discussion with Signa during the event, said she wrote a list of questions beforehand to ensure she could express her concerns.
“I wrote them up because I wanted to make sure that I could rationally say all my frustrations about the police department,” Mozaffarian said.
Mozaffarian said she attended the event primarily to understand the perspective of police officers on Deltopia.
“I don’t think that these cops are the police officers that I have problems with, so I just wanted to see if they shared that same issues that we have as the community,” Mozaffarian said.
According to Mozaffarian, some students resist the cops only because they want to party freely, but others, like those who attend events like Pizza with Police, want to offer useful criticism.
“Some people have problems with the cops because they stop them from partying and drinking, but I think a lot of people are genuinely looking out for the well-being of our community,” Mozaffarian said.
Many attendees had questions about the special noise ordinance in I.V. for Deltopia weekend. The ordinance states I.V. residents playing music that can be heard from the street can be cited and given a $500 fine. Signa said the ordinance is meant to limit the size of gathering in I.V. residences.
“As long as the music can’t be heard from outside, it’s no issue, and we’re not looking for that,” Signa said.
Jake Gorham, a third-year political science major, and Duncan Calvert, a third-year political science and history double major, organized the event in their roles as public safety coordinators for the Office of the External Vice President for Local Affairs (EVPLA). They started a volunteer force called UCIV Safety Coalition that will consist of 30 volunteers patrolling I.V. during Deltopia handing our water and warning students who may be at risk of citation or arrest.
Gorham said he hopes that, if the UCIV program is successful, he and Calvert can turn it into a more permanent establishment to contribute to community policing in I.V.
“We are really trying to advocate for community policing in Isla Vista, and we are hoping the volunteer program brings that out,” Gorham said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we are hoping for gradual change.”
According to Calvert, the volunteer force will mainly focus on preventing noise-related citations and said they will help relay information about parking restrictions, but obeying the law is ultimately the individual student’s responsibility.
“The volunteer force is hopefully going to mitigate all of the noise ordinance violations,” Calvert said. “We really don’t want students having misdemeanors on their records and having that bad experience.”
Calvert said he hopes that the volunteer force will show UCPD and the IVFP that there are students actively seeking solutions for I.V.
“The majority of police officers are dealing with our population at its worst,” Calvert said. “We are trying to create a good dialogue between the student body and officers who care and are committed.”
Signa also said he supports Gorham and Clavert’s endeavor.
“It’s better that students talk to students than that the cops talk to them,” Signa said.
Signa said he hopes arrests will be minimal, but warned that there will be no drunk tank in I.V. and all students will be processed and sent to Santa Barbara County Jail.
“If arrests do happen, we will be very strict as far as if you are drinking and publicly intoxicated,” Signa said. “With all the cops out there, there will be zero tolerance.”
Mozaffarian however said she thinks the cops focus too much on arresting students for public drunkenness.
“My biggest concern is that — after everything we’ve undergone — I think it’s been proven that the problems of I.V. are not due to the parties or the drunk students walking around minding their own business,” Mozaffarian said. “The problem is bigger than that.”
Gorham said he hopes UCIV will help warn students that they are at risk for arrest for public drunkenness before they come in contact with the police.
“The police have said it’s technically a no-tolerance policy during Detlopia,” Gorham said. “Our goal is to be able to give out warnings and give people a heads up.”
A central concern among students at the event was the increase of police presence planned for Deltopia, but Signa said this increase is proven to correlate with lower crime rates.
“The whole idea is we want to saturate the place and just be visible,” Signa said. “They are looking for people who might be causing problems that might be dangerous.”
Despite this, Signa said he believes the solution to I.V.’s fundamental problems do not lie in increased police presence.
“As much as the police department and the sheriff’s department put in effort as far as having cops here, bringing in a horse team, and all this extra equipment, that’s only a band aid that doesn’t fix the problem,” Signa said. “The problem has to be fixed from within the community.”
Mozaffarian said she understands the crime-prevention intention of increased police presence but said she is not convinced of its effectiveness.
“I don’t really understand why we bring extra law enforcement, but still go after drunk students just sitting on a curb,” Mozaffarian said. “If the cops are here to protect and serve, they shouldn’t be victimizing the students.”
After the event, Mozaffarian said Signa was clearly being “diplomatic” when he answered her questions and she said she appreciated his effort to work with students.
“Mark is such an amazing guy,” Mozaffarian said. “He is one of the cops that prove that there are good cops out there with good intentions who are looking out for the best of our community.”
Signa said he hopes the dialogue between students and police can extend beyond Pizza with Police and special circumstances like Deltopia.
“We need to represent you,” Signa said. “You need to be able to come to us and ask your questions — not just at Pizza with the Cops.”