The California Highway Patrol is going to be stepping up its efforts to keep the streets of Isla Vista safe for pedestrians, thanks to a recent state grant totaling more than $120,000.
A committee of law enforcement agencies and community members held a press conference Friday afternoon at I.V. Elementary School to unveil how the CHP plans to apply the grant. Starting this week, the new program will add a CHP patrol car and two officers to the law enforcement presence in I.V. every Friday and Saturday night from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. during the UCSB and Santa Barbara City College school year.
Don Clotworthy, spokesman for the Santa Barbara division of the CHP, said the goal of the program is to reduce the number of pedestrian-involved accidents in I.V. He said officers would be policing the area for unsafe driving and making sure local residents know how to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
“We’re not there just to enforce a law,” Clotworthy said. “We’re there for education.”
The main concern of the new CHP unit will be discouraging those who drink in I.V. from driving drunk, Clotworthy said, not to prevent people from having fun.
“The biggest focus, of course, will be the DUI drivers,” Clotworthy said. “We’re not out there to pick on pedestrians. We want people to enjoy the college experience, but enjoy it safely.”
The California Office of Traffic Safety awarded the task force a pedestrian safety corridor grant of $123,682.53 after deciding that I.V. was the highest-priority “problem area” to apply for a grant. Clotworthy said a CHP study of the number of pedestrian-involved accidents in I.V. factored heavily into the decision.
The study found that one pedestrian was killed and 33 were injured by vehicles during the period from 1999 to 2003. Those figures do not include the 2001 incident in which David Attias struck five pedestrians, killing four and injuring one.
Clotworthy said the Office of Traffic Safety also recognized that Isla Vista’s unique situation – 16,000 people living within one square mile, with a heavy reliance on alternative transportation – creates a high risk of pedestrian-vehicle collisions.
CHP Santa Barbara Area Cmdr. Cliff Williams said the grant would provide $78,000 for the CHP to use in overtime hours for the weekend patrol, and more than $36,000 for equipment and educational supplies.
Williams said his office would also be able to use some of the officer overtime hours to set up informational booths at local events and to help students at I.V. Elementary make it to school safely. He said he agreed with Clotworthy’s statement that the program’s emphasis would be on education.
“I do not have any numerical goals or expectations or quotas for the amount of tickets or citations my officers write,” Williams said. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s about keeping everyone safe.”
As part of its educational efforts, the CHP has already purchased an officer-sized chipmunk costume for its new mascot, Chipper. Chipper remained at the school after the press conference and mingled with a crowd of students while handing out informational cards and stickers.
“I love that the police officers are so accessible,” said Lisa Maglione, principal of I.V. Elementary and member of the task force.
The UC Police Dept. also received $5,000 to put toward overtime hours for officers patrolling the campus. Scott Talkov, senior political science major and chair of the Associated Students Committee on Public Safety, said he planned to make sure the task force hears students’ reactions to the increased law enforcement presence.
“There should be student representation throughout the duration of the program,” Talkov said.