Happy Halloween to all!

This letter begins what I hope will be a continuing series promoting communication between the students of UCSB and law enforcement of our area.

In my thirteen years as a police officer I’ve had the pleasure – and sometimes frustration – of working with the students at UCSB and in Isla Vista. Most of the time, my frustrations have stemmed from a lack of communication between students and the police. Misunderstandings of what we do, why we do it and what is legal often have led to hard feelings from both sides that could have been avoided if we took some time out to talk about the issues before they become issues.

My goal for this new Daily Nexus column is to dispel some myths and rumors, as well as open some lines of communication by providing an opportunity for students to ask the police questions. Do I expect you to believe everything I say and take it as gospel? Of course not! I am a strong believer in the philosophy of “Question Authority” and I believe that the University environment should encourage that practice. Does that mean step in and interfere when you see an officer making an arrest? No. That can get you into trouble regardless of whether you think the arrest is justified.

If you have a question about law enforcement or the rules send me an email. I can’t talk specifics about your ticket or arrest, but I can give you some answers to why the officers wrote the ticket, made the arrest or shut down the party. To get us started, here are a few of the questions I’ve been asked.

Q: So what’s the deal with no parties or music on Halloween?

A: Halloween has always been a symbol of the I.V. party scene. Unfortunately, Halloween became so well known with the help of Playboy years ago that it attracted people from all over the country. In the early’90s the crowds grew to 50,000 people a night crowding onto Del Playa Drive.

As a result of the crowds and ensuing rowdiness, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. implemented a 5-year plan to control the party scene. The plan involved lots of cops, lots of arrests and stricter noise ordinances, including County Ordinance 6-70.01, which prohibits music from being heard outside residences from Oct. 28 through Nov. 2 between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Now this does not say you can’t have a party on Halloween at all. It does, however, attempt to keep the parties inside the apartments and smaller. With the large crowds – like those expected this year – the music and parties often attract more people than the people throwing the party expected or can handle. This potentially leads to blocked streets, fights, and other crowd control problems for the Foot Patrol. The goal is to keep the crowds moving and also keep the parties a local event.

Q: I got a Minor in Possession (MIP) ticket on my front lawn. Isn’t that private property?

A: Yes, that’s private property. The bad news is that it’s still illegal for a minor to possess alcohol. Does this mean the cops are going to be kicking down your door to write you a MIP ticket? Of course not. Officers do not go into houses looking for MIPs. However, if you are on the front lawn or driveway, you could be contacted and given a ticket for possessing alcohol if you’re under 21 years old.

Q: I was arrested for being drunk in public, but was not given any sobriety tests. What’s the deal?

A: Unlike with a drunk driver, the tests given are not the touch-your-finger-to-your-nose type. The tests for public intoxication are your ability to walk in a straight line, stand without falling, not throwing up in front of us or remembering which town you are in at that moment. When an officer contacts someone, they are evaluating that person’s ability to care for their safety. We look at speech patterns, balance, odor and clothing condition, among other factors, to determine if someone is under the influence. There is no minimum blood alcohol content -like .08 percent for DUI -required. The officer is just required to show that the alcohol or drugs in a person’s system were preventing them from caring for themselves.

To ask Training and Crime Prevention Officer Mark Signa a question, email him at msigna@police.ucsb.edu.