Residents and local law enforcement personnel are gearing up for tonight’s Halloween celebration in Isla Vista – an epic event for UCSB students and the Isla Vista Foot Patrol and a pilgrimage for thousands of out-of-town visitors.
While partygoers finalize costumes, police are readying nine floodlight towers to illuminate portions of the 6500 and 6600 blocks of Del Playa Drive, in addition to barricades that will restrict automobile access to DP, Sabado Tarde Road and a section of Pardall Road during peak times of pedestrian congestion.
“The sheer number of partiers dictates we bring in more law enforcement,” IVFP Lt. Tom McKinny said.
Roughly 100 officers will be on duty Friday and Saturday nights – double the deployment of last year – and at a pre-budgeted cost of approximately $150,000, McKinny said. Police will be using undercover officers to prevent fights, uniformed officers to monitor DP crowds and five horse-mounted officers from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. to aide crowd control efforts in the event of an emergency.
McKinny would not say if undercover officers would be wearing costumes.
“Let’s keep it mysterious,” he said.
Officers on bikes and in cars will patrol the rest of I.V., and supervised inmate labor will work both weekend nights to clean up after the horses, McKinny said. At least 10 California Highway Patrol officers will be assigned to I.V. and surrounding areas to monitor traffic and sobriety checkpoints. In addition, county search-and-rescue teams, whose members include emergency medical technicians, will be stationed in I.V. and roam through DP crowds in teams of three.
The light towers should occupy nine parking places on alternating sides of DP.
“[They] make it easier for us to see,” IVFP Sgt. Tom Walton said. “In a large mix with alcohol, anonymity breeds misbehavior. If people have a feeling they’re going to be seen, they’re less likely to cause trouble.”
Walton said the lights, 15 of which were used during the Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebration last August in downtown Santa Barbara, “were a proven deterrent” to crime.
McKinny said barricades on DP and Sabado Tarde will go up around 9 p.m. Since drivers on those roads will not be able to penetrate crowds anyway, McKinny said automobile access would be closed to prevent injuries.
The barricades will be removed “whenever the crowds thin out,” which McKinny said he expects to occur around 3 a.m. Saturday morning.
Police have plans for worst-case disaster scenarios, including the possibility of a structure fire on DP, but Walton said fire emergencies are much more difficult to respond to than medical emergencies because the fire department requires the quick deployment of many large vehicles.
“Imagine how challenging it would be to immediately displace thousands of people,” Walton said. “That’s when you might see skirmish lines and horses and people hopefully cooperating. People who are in an inebriated state probably won’t respond immediately.”
Unwelcome to Isla Vista
If the hopes of law enforcement and UCSB officials come true, out-of-town visitors will not be lured by the legend of Isla Vista’s huge, drunken annual Halloween celebration and make it a reality of vandalism, violence and other crimes.
McKinny said that after Halloween in 1992, when over 1,000 people were arrested, the county embarked on a five-year plan to curb crowds, especially those composed of out-of-town visitors, who were causing a higher percentage of problems than UCSB students and I.V. residents.
“Our goal is to discourage out-of-town partiers from coming here,” McKinny said.
During the years following a police crackdown and new noise and party ordinances, police recorded far fewer arrests.
“People who lived here still had fun, but it was much more manageable,” McKinny said.
However, he said crowds have been rising again in recent years, and since Halloween falls on a Friday night, it will be easier this year for out-of-town people to get to I.V.
A zero-tolerance policy has been applied throughout Fall Quarter this year, and police have been ratcheting up their presence every weekend between the start of school and Halloween. McKinny said there were 30 officers in I.V. last weekend, as opposed to the dozen or so who patrol on a typical weekend.
Walton said although the zero-tolerance policy mandates arrests or citations for lawbreakers instead of warnings, officers still have some individual discretion.
“Well over half of our contacts and interaction with groups are positive,” Walton said. “We’ve had a very good fall.”
McKinny also said interaction with the community has been mostly positive, and officers are the targets of very little heckling. However, officers have not built up rapport with out-of-town visitors.
“We’ve got that unknown factor,” McKinny said.
I.V. Businesses and DP Residents
“I feel that our place is more for the local clientele, the students and the residents,” said Riccardo Fundament, owner of Dublin’s restaurant on Pardall.
Fundament said he is closing the restaurant early tonight, after the 7-8 p.m. dinner rush, in order to avoid trouble from out-of-town visitors “disrespecting [his] place.” He said his restaurant is typically very crowded on Halloween because its corner location makes it highly visible to outsiders who do not know the area.
“We did have problems last year,” Fundament said. “It’s difficult to check IDs because everyone has their faces painted and is wearing costumes.”
Fundament said that although it will be a big business night, he prefers to take the loss.
“We’ve built the place with a lot of regular customers,” Fundament said. “I definitely could use the money, but I just feel it’s the right thing to do. It’s going to be the loyal regulars who are going to stay away anyway.”
However, Fundament said I.V. is fine the other 364 days a year.
“Isla Vista gets a bum rap,” Fundament said. “Halloween gives it a stigma for the rest of the year that it doesn’t deserve.”
Residents of DP, which is ground zero for Halloween debauchery, said they have mixed emotions regarding this year’s heavy police presence.
“I’m not going to go out this year as much – I’m probably going to stay around with friends