I usually start the first article of the year with the usual “Welcome back! It sure was a quiet summer without you.” To be honest, though, the summer was anything but quiet. In an effort to foster better relations between the United States and the European Union, Isla Vista played host to a few folks from Ireland. Based on conversations I had with them, I gathered that many left with a positive impression of the I.V. lifestyle. A few, on the other hand, left with expensive handwritten souvenirs courtesy of the local law enforcement tourist bureau.

But I digress… My goal when writing this column is to help provide you with information that may help you avoid getting a ticket, getting arrested or even being a victim of a crime. People are often nervous about approaching the cops on the street. In reality, as long as you’re not holding a bloody knife while asking the cop a hypothetical question about killing an annoying neighbor, you’ll probably get some good info. But for those of you who are still a bit hesitant, I want to provide an easy way to get questions asked and answered. E-mail me anonymously and I will do my best to give my perspective as a cop why it happened or try to answer any questions you have. I’m not asking for you to take my word as gospel.

To get us started in the new school year, here are a few of the basic questions that I get asked about partying in Isla Vista:

Is it a law that I have to hold my cup upside down while walking down Del Playa Drive?

No. There’s no law saying you have to have your cup upside down. However, one of the things the cops look for in Isla Vista is open containers of alcohol. If we see a cup held upright, we zone in on it like the last jelly-filled at the local Dunkin’ Donuts. Until we know it doesn’t have alcohol in it, the cops will keep coming up and asking. So by keeping it upside down, we don’t pay attention to you and pass right on by.

I had the lid on the bottle of vodka, but I still got an open container ticket. Why?

When we talk about an open versus closed container, we are talking about the “factory seal,” or the condition of the seal when the bottle was purchased. What that means is once the bottle has been opened, it cannot be “re-sealed” in the legal sense. No matter how tight you put on the cap, it’s still considered an “open container.” Once the bottle is opened, you can’t walk down the street with it, or put it in a car.

Why didn’t I get a warning instead of the ticket? I would never do it again…

Although it would be great to think that all we had to do is warn people and no one would ever repeat their mistake, the reality is that warnings frequently don’t work. Often when we gave warnings for stereo violations after midnight on the weekends, we found ourselves going back to the same address several times. When we did give a ticket, people would say they never got their warning, so it was okay to keep the music going. So, the only fair practice is to be consistent and issue citations for the violations we observe.