It has begun! As the tolling of the tower bells signals a new year, I want to be the 1,257th person to say, “Welcome back!” Since this is the first “Question Authority” article of the year, I should begin by introducing myself to all of you newcomers.

I’m fairly sure that the vast majority of you who are reading this for the first time are thinking, “Why am I wasting my time reading some cop’s insipid rants that are probably going to be nothing more than telling me to be good or I’ll get in trouble?” Yeah, who would want to read that? Or more realistically, who would be dumb enough to write that and really expect it to be helpful? Can you say, “Boring!”? I needed to do something different.

A few years ago, I was standing outside the I.V. Foot Patrol office when I saw a car pull up with a bumper sticker that read, “Question Authority!” So, I asked the driver if she had any questions for me. The panicked look on her face as she ran away told me that maybe she did have a question, but was afraid to ask. That got me thinking that most of the students and residents of Isla Vista who get in trouble are not bad people. More aptly, they are just decent people who make a mistake based on not knowing what the laws are or how they are applied by the cops.

And how do you find out? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it should be to just walk up to the cops and ask questions. The impression is made that the cops are unapproachable and would just as soon rip your head off and use it to replace a tattered Jack In The Box antennae ball on the patrol car as they haul you off to jail for some unknown crime.

The truth is that the vast majority of us want to be helpful and appreciate the friendly wave hello, preferably with all five fingers. So I do this quasi-regular article in which people can e-mail me questions or problems they have with the law or cops. I will respond to all questions and write up some of them here for everyone to read. This is my way of trying to help not only those who have gotten in trouble, but also help everyone avoid getting into hassles that could have easily been prevented. Consider this my penance for a little incident a few years ago involving a gorilla suit, a back-hoe and sixty jars of Marshmallow Creme… Errr… Never mind… Let’s just begin the year with one of the more common questions I’m asked:

I was drinking a beer on my friend’s front porch when the cops wrote me a ticket for minor in possession of alcohol. Can they write me a ticket when I’m on private property?

Sadly, if you’re under 21, the law says you can’t be anywhere in public and be drinking or in possession of any alcohol. This would include yards, porches, driveways, etc. Even though the property itself is “private”, it is still open to public view and access. So if you’re under 21 and drinking outside, the cops can write you the ticket.

As you all go out over the next year and enjoy your time here at UCSB and in Isla Vista, I hope that it will be safe and trouble-free. You are all more than welcome to stop by when you see me sitting at one of the “Question Authority” tables at the dining commons or Storke Plaza. I’ll also be at the upcoming Isla Vista Community information fair being held at Embarcadero Hall on Monday Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. Until next time, take care and be safe!

Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the police? Ticked off by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you, Question Authority! E-mail me anytime at: or call the Crime Prevention Office: 893-4063.