Aided by $150,000 in state grants, the Isla Vista Foot Patrol is stepping up its enforcement of alcohol laws and going after I.V. residents who hold keg parties where minors are drinking beer.
Sgt. Mark Vellekamp, a UC Police Dept. officer working at the IVFP, said that within the past three weeks, police issued 16 citations for furnishing alcohol to minors – a misdemeanor that carries a mandatory fine of $3,076. He also said officers have been confiscating kegs at a rate of 15 to 20 per weekend.
“It’s kind of a new approach,” Vellekamp said. “We didn’t really target parties for those kind of violations before.”
Until recently, Vellekamp said, the IVFP would normally enter a party and cite only the offending minors, rather than those who provided the alcohol.
Vellekamp said much of the grant money, which was awarded by the California Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control, is being used to fund overtime hours for IVFP officers. He said this has enabled the department to take the time necessary to track kegs back to the store where they were purchased and the people who purchased them.
“You have to do a lot of follow-up with the store to find out who bought the keg,” Vellekamp said. “All that stuff is extremely time-consuming.”
Senior Deputy Sandra Brown of the IVFP said the increased enforcement is not a new tactic or a “crackdown,” but an extension of the department’s previous efforts.
“Issuing minor in possession citations has been effective, but targeting the source of the alcohol is the logical next step for us,” Brown said. “We’ve just expanded our investigations.”
The IVFP received one grant for $50,000 in December 2003 and another for $100,000 in July 2004. Brown said part of the grant money has been used to send IVFP officers to ABC conferences where they can expand and reinforce their knowledge of the penal code, allowing them to enforce laws more aggressively.
“We just have more resources and more knowledge of the laws,” Brown said. “It makes you more confident as a police officer.”
Brown said that since the IVFP has stepped up its policing of keg parties, she has seen fewer large parties that are open to everyone, and fewer students walking the streets with keg cups.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a priority, but my perception is that it is working,” she said.
Brown said she hopes the decrease in uncontrolled parties will reduce the amount of alcohol-related crimes in I.V., particularly violence stemming from confrontations at such parties.
“The mission of our department has always been public safety,” Brown said. “Passionately, our goal is that you guys graduate in one piece.”
The law states that police may enter any party where a keg is visible from the outside of the house – be it in the front yard, back yard, or on a balcony – and can technically cite anyone who was involved in providing the alcohol in any way. Brown said she recommends that I.V. residents do whatever they can to keep random people from entering their parties, as the host can be cited even if he or she did not intend to give alcohol to a minor.
Nick Liewer, a senior business economics major, recently received a fine of over $3,000 when a minor he did not know wandered out of his party with a cup of beer. The minor was stopped by the police and informed them he got the beverage inside. Liewer said he has been to numerous parties in the past, and this was the first time he or anyone he knows has been cited for furnishing to minors.
“I think it sucks,” Liewer said. “There was no fair warning that they were going to start doing this.”
Liewer said he had contemplated hiring a lawyer and fighting the citation, but he said the law leaves no room for interpretation. He also said he plans to buy 30-packs of more expensive canned beer for future parties.
“I’m not buying another keg again,” he said. “That’s for sure.”