More UCSB students received parental notifications regarding their illegal behavior in Isla Vista this academic year than last, and records from the Isla Vista Foot Patrol show an upward trend in the occurrence of violent crime over the past four years.
University officials have mailed 380 notification letters to the parents of students arrested or cited for crimes committed in I.V. this year to date, while only 327 letters were mailed during the 2002-03 academic year – the first year in which UCSB’s Parental Notification Program was in effect. According to foot patrol statistics, UCSB and Santa Barbara City College students accounted for 46 percent of the 3,130 citations and arrests during 2003, while the other 54 percent of those arrested or cited were from other colleges, the military, high school, had no school affiliation or their affiliation was unknown. Data has not yet been compiled for 2004, but the 2003 numbers do not vary significantly from those of 2002, said Lt. Tom McKinny of the IVFP.
I.V. averaged 54 simple batteries per year between 1998 and 2003, while 21 simple batteries had already occurred as of April 2004. An average of 19 batteries that resulted in serious injury occurred per year between 1998 and 2003, while 13 such crimes had already been reported as of April 2004. One of those I.V. assaults resulted in the death of SBCC student Bradley Jones in early March. Police and witnesses said Jones was punched so hard in the face that he fell over backwards, hit his head on the street and sustained a fatal head injury.
While instances of alcohol-related crime in I.V. have remained relatively stable since 1998, the 2003-04 academic year has seen an increase in the number of citations issued for minor in possession and open container of alcohol violations over the same period of time in the previous three years.
Between January and April of 2002, police issued 249 citations for minor in possession of alcohol violations. During that same four-month period in 2003, police issued 270 MIP citations, and this year, police wrote 313 such citations in that same timeframe.
McKinny and Associate Dean of Students Debbie Fleming said 2004’s increase in parental notification letters and citations issued for alcohol-related crimes is most likely a result of increased enforcement by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. in order to curb the availability of liquor to minors.
In December of 2003, the IVFP received a $50,000 grant from the state Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control to pay for extra officers to watch local liquor stores more closely – conducting minor decoy operations, auditing keg registration logs and asking to see identification of patrons who are leaving local stores with alcohol. The sheriff’s department has applied for an additional $100,000 state grant to create a more tamper-resistant keg tracking system for I.V. so police can more easily hold a keg’s buyer responsible if minors are consuming alcohol from it.
“People often ask, ‘Why are you writing beer tickets when people are out there getting hurt?'” McKinny said. “It’s not a waste of time. Most of the assaults are alcohol-related – alcohol often leads to violence.”
In response to increasingly violent attacks last year, undercover officers were deployed on weekend nights in I.V. to prevent assaults and apprehend a higher percentage of fight instigators, McKinny said. However, he said budget constraints have not allowed the sheriff’s department to continue the practice on a regular basis this year.
“There’s not a whole lot of money for overtime floating around,” McKinny said. “Overtime is frequently used up in the fall and Halloween.”
On any given night, McKinny said, officers respond to fight call after fight call, but such incidents happen so quickly that they are broken up or there are no suspects by the time police arrive.
“It seems more people are prone to violence than they used to be,” McKinny said. “It’s something that I really want to solve. It’s such an anonymous atmosphere – you’ve got thousands of people of student age. There’s no easy solution to it.”
In addition to curbing violent assaults, McKinny said property crimes are also very difficult to prevent, and that residents need to take responsibility for locking their doors. He said “opportunists” who take advantage of an open-door I.V. culture commit the majority of burglaries.
McKinny said residents reported 148 burglaries in 2003. In at least half of those cases, a laptop or digital camera was among the items stolen. This year, 54 burglaries had been reported to the foot patrol as of April.
“We’re talking a lot of laptops,” McKinny said. “We don’t often get burglaries as they’re happening, but the more brazen [thieves] get and the more cooperation we get from the community, once we stop a group, we’re pretty good about clearing previous cases.”
In one such instance in February of this year, alert residents tipped police to a burglary in progress on the 6600 block of Sabado Tarde Road. Officers arrested two men in possession of some stolen computers. One man admitted to committing around 50 similar burglaries in I.V. A search of the man’s Los Angeles-area home recovered over 40 computers and other electronic items stolen from I.V.
McKinney also said that over the past few years, UCSB and SBCC have taken an increased interest in solving crime- and alcohol-related problems in the community. He said he’s been working together with schools on numerous overlapping committees.
“Both these colleges understand that their students contribute to the problem,” McKinney said. “It will be much more quiet in two weeks when school gets out. It’s not like I.V. has a life of its own – it’s quiet over Spring Break. If there’s no one here from UCSB or SBCC to party with, there’s no party.”
Fleming said that in the first year of parental notifications the number of such letters sent home was down 45 percent from what it would have been in 2001 if based on that year’s IVFP arrest and citation logs. The Office of Student Life currently uses those logs to determine which students have been arrested or cited every weekend and then sends a letter of concern to that student’s parents. While the total number of letters sent home increased in Winter Quarter of this year due to grant-related enforcement by the sheriff’s department, Spring Quarter’s total number of letters sent home to date is still down from Spring 2003, Fleming said.
She said a 2003 Core Alcohol and Drug Survey measuring alcohol and other drug use showed that 10 percent of students changed their drinking habits in the wake of the Parental Notification Program’s implementation.
Overall, Fleming said student and parent response to the program has been mixed, but the letters have opened up the opportunity for conversations between parents and students to reduce high-risk drinking.
“We’ve had a lot less response than we thought we’d get,” Fleming said. “We’ve had several parents say thanks for letting us know, but we’ve had some really angry students say it’s an invasion of privacy.”