Considering the thousands of students who will spend this weekend in a drunken, half-naked haze, it is hard to believe that Halloween in Isla Vista used to be even crazier.
When Halloween in I.V. became a well-known event and began to attract droves of out-of-towners several decades ago, the Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP) and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. began developing techniques and creating laws to control the party.
Some of I.V.’s wildest Halloweens were in the late 1970s through the early 1990s. According to Daily Nexus archives and the sheriff’s department, in 1987, 1,096 people out of an estimated 35,000 revelers were arrested on Halloween weekend. Public intoxication accounted for most of the arrests. An article from the Daily Nexus archive dated 1979 describes a particularly out-of-control party on Halloween night.
“There were 18 people arrested on the 6600 block of Del Playa Dr. at only one location. The party of 600 people turned into a mini riot as one officer was injured, three patrol cars were damaged and two foot patrol officers were pelted with bottles.”
The IVFP has seen its share of action since its formation in 1970. Lt. Sol Linver, current head of the IVFP, said the establishment of a law enforcement presence in I.V. has resulted in a drop in violent crimes and arrests. Because of new legislation like the 1992 Festival Ordinance, Linver said Halloween crime has been down in recent years and Isla Vista has become a safer place to live and party.
“[The Festival Ordinance] covers five days,” Linver said. “[It begins] the Thursday before the Halloween weekend starting at 6 p.m. and it concludes the following Tuesday. In the county law, which was established in 1992, illegal parties are defined as ‘any music festival, dance festival, rock festival or similar musical activity.’ … The ordinance has definitely made a difference.”
Linver said there has been a general trend toward a more subdued Halloween in past years.
“This is my 16th Halloween here in I.V., and from my experience and from talking to guys that have been here longer than I have, the [crime] stats are down; things seem to be getting better,” Linver said. “Of course, you have to take into account what day Halloween actually falls on. If we’re talking a Tuesday, Wednesday night, it’s going to be different than say, a Friday or Saturday.”
The sheriff’s department also pitches in to help control I.V.’s Halloween festivities. Sheriff’s Dept. spokesman Chris Pappas said the Festival Ordinance has had a positive effect, keeping the crowds on DP from stalling in front of parties that have live bands.
“I think historically, we have learned that it creates a natural focal point to have live music,” Pappas said.
Pappas also said because of new laws like the Festival Ordinance, the Noise Ordinance and the increased enforcement of alcohol laws, the levels of violence, crime and underage drinking are gradually declining.
“There was a period where the activity peaked, which was the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Pappas said. “There was a peak with reference to the number of arrests and the influx of other people coming into the area. [In 1993] we adopted a five-year plan where we targeted specific activities and it resulted in a tremendous change in the complexion of those activities.”
Pappas said one such plan included targeting open keg parties that furnish alcohol to minors, a strategy that he said has been very effective since it was implemented in the summer.
“The number of minors being provided alcohol has decreased as the fines for kegs have been enforced,” Pappas said.
The other ways in which the IVFP reduces the number of crimes during Halloween is to increase their staff for the entire fall terms of UCSB and SB City College, Linver said. During this “Fall Orientation,” which has been in effect for the last five years, the number of officers out on the street on weekends in the fall is considerably higher than during Winter or Spring Quarters. Linver said this helps make the strictness of local law enforcement apparent to newcomers to I.V. well before Halloween arrives.
“During the beginning of school, from Sept. 1 to Oct. 24, we have an extra 10 to 20 officers on duty on Friday and Saturday nights,” Linver said.
Linver said he is optimistic that this year’s Halloween will reflect the encouraging statistics of the year so far.
“Last year we had 11 batteries and this year so far we have only had six,” Linver said. “There were 10 batteries with serious injury compared to this year’s three. Last year we had 11 instances where people were fighting in public or disturbing the peace and this year we have had five. And last year we had 24 reports of vandalism and this year there have only been nine so far.”