As the 2001-02 school year comes to a close, the Isla Vista Foot Patrol reflects on the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I.V. accounts for almost 25 percent of serious crime each year in Santa Barbara County. UCSB students, who make up 60 percent of the I.V. population, contribute to 35 percent of the crime.

In 2001,the IVFP reported 2,426 alcohol-related reports, 20 sexual offenses, 126 physical assaults, 315 property offenses and 1,295 miscellaneous offenses – which include urinating in public and noise ordinance violations.

IVFP Lt. Russ Birchim said the numbers are very similar to past years.

“[The crime rate] has been pretty consistent and on course with past years,” he said. “The activity never seems to change a lot.”

In 2002, IVFP has already reported549 alcohol-related offenses, 8 sexual offenses, 41 physical assaults, 143 property offenses and 340 miscellaneous offenses. Birchim said the crime pattern might change next school year due to the new ordinance passed by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on May 28, which allows IVFP deputies to shut down any party they deem a “public nuisance.”

The highest amount of crime generally occurs at the beginning of the school year due to the influx of new students, Birchim said.

“We’re extremely busy in the fall when the new students come to town, so we increase our manpower at that time,” he said. “We have to set a tone with the 18-year-olds because it’s their first time away from home without parental supervision. We have to let them know what actions will not be tolerated.”

Halloween weekend has always been the most difficult weekend for the IVFP. The number of crimes committed on Halloween, however, has been decreasing since 1993 when Santa Barbara County and UCSB began working together to lower the Halloween crime rate. The result was the Halloween “lock-down” – the barring of non-residents from university-owned and university-affiliated residence halls – over Halloween weekend.

Despite this effort, Birchim said there is an increasing number of problems caused by out-of-towners during Halloween weekend and throughout the year.

“We’ll have increased activity from out-of-town students on three-day weekends or during the basketball playoffs or rugby tournaments, and we really try to discourage that,” he said. “We also get a lot of military personnel from Port Hueneme. There’s a lot of parties here and a lot of women, so sailors and marines will come up for the weekend just to have a good time.”

Couch fires are a major concern of the IVFP. So far this year there have been 23 reported couch fires, four of which occurred this past weekend.

“If we catch a student starting a fire, it’s felony arson, which means they go to the state prison,” Birchim said. “If we catch someone fueling a fire, it’s a misdemeanor. We arrested 30 people for that last year.”

The board of supervisors has pressured the IVFP to stop couch fires because of the expensive damage they cause to newly paved streets. Burnt furniture can also leave behind screws and tacks in the road, which cause flat tires for cars and bikes.

Birchim said people should realize how dangerous a couch fire can be.

“A couch fire can easily spread to a tree, car or house,” he said, “and on a Friday or Saturday night it’s difficult if not impossible to get an emergency vehicle through because the streets are so crowded.”