Welcome to another year of thrills and chills at UCSB! My job in this and future columns is to help you have as much fun as possible while avoiding some of the pitfalls that so many students run into every year. By discussing topics and questions about problems that other students have had, I am hoping that you will avoid getting in trouble while out in I.V. or even here on campus. And if you do get busted by the cops, I’ll try to explain what happened and why, and what your options may be from there.

I’m not trying to force any opinion down your throat. This is just another source of information for you to use in making up your own mind. There are a lot of sources out there for you to use, such as professors, friends, family or even the drunk guy pumping the keg. What I have found in the 15 years I have been a police officer at UCSB, and a few before doing the DP crawl, is that so many students have questions about what they see in Isla Vista, but they are hesitant to ask. They see someone getting arrested, or they got a ticket and it seems completely wrong or unfair. Their party got busted, but next door is still going at 4 a.m. Why?

This ain’t gonna be Shakespeare, but I try to keep it light while answering the questions I am asked. E-mail, letters, phone calls, Morse code or any way you want to ask, I’m open to it. Please, just no notes tied to a brick and thrown through my window.

Anonymous letters complaining about the ticket you got? No problem. Any communication is better than no communication. I can’t give you legal advice or comment on a detail since I wasn’t there, but I will do my best to discuss why things may have happened. Not everything makes the column, but I do respond to every e-mail I get. So if you’ve got a question, bring it on! To start us off, here’s a couple of common questions from last year.

Why should I have to keep my cup upside down while walking down Del Playa?

There’s no law saying you have to keep it upside down, but it’s definitely to your advantage to do it! What do you think the cops are looking for while working those late weekend nights on Del Playa? You might be thinking pink and blue aardvarks carrying crates of cheap imitation watches (trust me, never buy a Molex), but you’d be wrong. We’re actually watching for alcohol violations. Things like minors in possession or open containers in public are the most common citation issued. If we see a cup being held like it might have something in it, we will probably contact you to see if the cup has beer in it. Plus, if you make it a habit, it will help keep you from accidentally walking into the street with that beer.

Do cops have quotas?

The typical cop response to this question is, “No, we can write as many tickets as we want.” I’ll pause here while you recover from rolling on the ground in a hysterical bit of laughter … better? OK. Seriously though, we don’t have quotas. In order to prevent a system that encourages officers to write everybody a ticket for everything rather than using some discretion, California enacted a law that prohibits the setting of quotas. Officers are encouraged to write tickets but are also trained to use some common sense and consider the circumstances. Sometimes there is a reasonable explanation for why a person committed an offense. We need to be fair and take that into consideration. And as far as explanations go, having to pee really, really bad doesn’t work when you’re stopped going 95 mph down Highway 217.

So as you embark on your first days of school, have fun, but be safe. You are going to have the opportunity to see and do some pretty fun (and pretty stupid) things. Just use common sense and you will have a blast. If you do have a question or comment about something you see, or if something happened to you, ASK! I will gladly answer any questions I can for you. I just wish someone had warned me about the aardvark sooner. You ever try to get a digital Limex repaired? Not good…

Sergeant Mark Signa is the training and crime prevention officer for the UC Police Dept. He can be reached at mark.signa@police.ucsb.edu.