During this year’s raucous Isla Vista Halloween celebrations, more than 700 people were arrested or cited by police, and local hospitals and emergency response teams were completely inundated with revelers requiring medical attention for alcohol-related illnesses and injuries.
Law enforcement officers dealt with 737 incidents during the Halloween weekend, making 272 arrests and citing 465 revelers for various offenses. At a Saturday night sobriety checkpoint operated by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) near the Highway 217 onramp at UCSB, four people were arrested for driving under the influence and two drivers under 21 were issued citations for having alcohol on their breath. The Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. responded to over 50 calls during Halloween weekend, the majority of which were alcohol-related.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Spokesman Sgt. Erik Raney said the most notable aspect of this year’s Halloween celebrations, which boasted peak crowds of approximately 25,000, was the unexpectedly high number of alcohol-related emergency medical calls.
“The thing about this year that was most different than last year was the number of alcohol-related injuries and illness that we saw,” Raney said. “On Saturday night, we had so many ambulances being called for alcohol overdoses or injuries due to alcohol that it totally saturated the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and the entire [Emergency Medical Services] system.”
The numerous medical emergencies did not overly tax the paramedics and other emergency response personnel at the scene, SB Fire Dept. Spokesman Keith Cullom said, but transporting all of the sick and injured people to hospitals presented a serious challenge.
“We had a substantial number [of alcohol-related emergencies] – a lot more than I think anybody would describe as reasonable,” Cullom said. “It taxed the system beyond what you would expect from an age group like that. The initial treatment by the firefighters or EMTs on scene, that was adequate. Where it started backing up was the demand on the transportation system. There aren’t enough ambulances in Santa Barbara County to accommodate the number of kids who needed transportation to the hospital for inappropriate acts on their own part.”
The high number of alcohol-related emergencies in I.V. also left people living outside the area without adequate emergency medical response, Raney said.
“I think it goes to show the irresponsibility of the people that were out there drinking to the point where they had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance,” Raney said. “Unfortunately, that has a greater impact on the community, because the guy that’s at home in Goleta having a heart attack and calling an ambulance will not get through as easily.”
Raney said he thinks the most serious alcohol-related incident during Halloween weekend was a man who tumbled over the cliffs at Sea Lookout Park on Del Playa Drive. He said the man, whose name has not been released, sustained only minor injuries in the accident.
“He was just lucky enough to fall in a place where the cliff was only about 35 feet high and it wasn’t a sheer drop,” Raney said. “He managed to just roll on a steep embankment and not fall off of anything.”
Most of the people who were cited or arrested during Halloween do not attend UCSB, Raney said.
“The majority of tickets and arrests were from students who were from out of the area and people who did not affiliate themselves with any school,” Raney said.
Santa Barbara CHP spokesman Officer Don Clotworthy said 389 vehicles were screened at a CHP checkpoint between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Saturday as they headed onto State Route 217 from the campus’s East Gate.
“As a result of this checkpoint, four motorists were taken off the road before they had a chance to be involved in a collision which could have resulted in serious injuries to innocent motorists, themselves or their passengers,” Clotworthy said. “Plain and simple, sobriety checkpoints save lives, and the CHP takes a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving.”
Between 120 and 150 law enforcement officers were stationed in I.V. during the Halloween weekend, Raney said. He said the operation went fairly well, but it will be evaluated by the administration of the Sheriff’s Dept. to determine what, if anything, should be done differently next year.
“One of the first things that we do after a major operation like this is take a step back and look at what is successful and what areas can be improved upon if any,” Raney said. “At this point, everything has run well.”