Prompted by the death of Bradley Jones, a Santa Barbara City College student who was attacked in Isla Vista in February, the Associated Students Commission on Public Safety (ASCOPS) and the UCSB Academic Senate are holding a town hall meeting to discuss ways to lessen violence in I.V.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the University Religious Center, located at 777 Camino Pescadero. Representatives from the I.V. Foot Patrol, UC Police Dept., California Highway Patrol and UCSB will answer questions and address public safety concerns raised by audience members. Representatives from the offices of current 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall and supervisor-elect Brooks Firestone are also expected to appear.
The meeting will include a panel discussion among local police and university officials on I.V. violence, followed by an informal question-and-answer session.
Harry Nelson, physics professor and co-chair of the Isla Vista Action Group (IVAG) -an organization formed at the request of Chancellor Henry Yang after Halloween 2003 to recommend ways to improve the quality of life in I.V.- said increasingly gruesome police reports of assaults and batteries occurring on a weekly basis in I.V. are one motivation for holding tonight’s meeting.
“We want residents to describe what problems they often see and talk about what can be done to make Isla Vista better,” Nelson said. “I’m really interested in knowing what they think will work.”
Nelson, who has biked or walked to work through I.V. every day since 1990, said the public is generally aware of the more serious crimes that occur in I.V., but many smaller crimes that have the same potential for severity often go unnoticed.
“There are a lot of opportunities for misfortune to occur,” Nelson said.
Yonie Harris, UCSB dean of students, said the town hall forum will give administrators a direct way to hear from students and residents regarding their perceptions of violence in I.V., as well as an opportunity to discuss how the university can help effect change by working with the community.
“It’s always good to have them share new information, new insights,” Harris said. “Do students feel their safety is in jeopardy? Do they feel or perceive mounting levels of violence?”
Scott Talkov, ASCOPS chair, said the meeting is primarily a brainstorming session about violent behavior in I.V. Although he said some violence is surely related to alcohol abuse, he said it is important to separate I.V.’s alcohol problem from its violence problem.
“I think people just want to have a fun and safe time,” Talkov said. “Students don’t like the fights that are happening at these parties.”
Nelson said he hopes town hall participants will bring up other issues to the officials present, such as the possible need for more streetlights and a better dispatch system for 9-1-1 calls originating from cell phones in I.V. In addition, he said he hopes police officers and paramedics discuss what people should do if they see a fight occurring and how to handle other emergencies.
While statistics from the IVFP over the past six years do not show a significant upward trend in violent crime or alcohol-related crime, Nelson said there is still a general perception among he and other faculty members that problems related to drinking and violence in I.V. have recently become more serious.
“There’s the perception that it’s gotten worse or that’s its come time to help out,” Nelson said. “I.V. feels more inner-cityish. What I mean by that is that the only bright places at night are the liquor stores, and that doesn’t seem right.”