Hello all and welcome to a brand-spanking new year at UCSB! For many of you this is the first year of a four-year-long adventure that will encapsulate some of the best memories of your life. There will be a lot of good times, bad times, fun times and possibly see-a-cop-and-run times. Hopefully not the last one, but that’s where I come in with this series of articles called “Question Authority.” As someone who started my adventures in Isla Vista at 18 years old and, ahem, a few years later, is still here, I have to say that for all of the good and the bad that I’ve run into, I still love this place. I am lucky in that I have had the opportunity to see Isla Vista and UCSB from the perspective of a teenager, young adult and now a cop. Based on my experiences, so many of the problems and frustrations students have with the cops is a lack of understanding on both of our parts.

Many years ago I was a young cop standing outside of the I.V. Foot Patrol office. A stagecoach pulled up with a bumper sticker … wait, okay, it wasn’t that long ago. A car pulled up and parked bearing a “Question Authority!” bumper sticker on it. A young woman got out and, just joking, I pointed to the bumper sticker and asked her, “So what’s your question?” She paused with a confused look and had no idea what to say. Although it was meant as a little joke, it got me thinking that it was actually just an example of a greater problem. People just don’t ask questions. We love to shout our opinions at each other, but do we take the time to actually stop and ask and answer questions? Since that time, I promised myself that I would take the extra time to talk to people and answer their questions as best I could. This was not going to make me super-cop or anything like that; I was just going to start doing what I should have been doing all along.

Since that time, I have been giving talks, answering emails, hanging out at crime scenes after we normally would have left and just talking to people who had questions about what was going on. I can’t always give the answer people want, but I at least try to give my perspective on what happened and why. You don’t have to agree with me and it’s okay to think I am full of unicorn poop, whatever that looks like. In fact, if I am wrong, let me know. I may never admit this to my wife, but I have been wrong and have had to go back and change things to make sure I do things right.

So, in a nutshell, during the upcoming school year, I will be writing a biweekly article here in the Nexus that will try to answer the questions sent to me or that I have been asked. If you get a ticket, or arrested, or have a “friend” who got in trouble and you have a question about it, ask me. Or even if you see something that you think is wrong and want to ask what that was all about, I am more than willing to take the time to talk to you about it. Whether it’s an anonymous question attached to a rock or a beautiful handwritten scroll attached to a plate of chocolate chip cookies, preferably the latter, I will take the time to answer your questions.

So to close out this week’s installment, here are just a few safety tips for you to consider while spending your free time exploring the wilds of Isla Vista!

When going out to parties, go with friends! Many of the victims of assaults or thefts are people walking alone. Also use the FREE CSO Escort Service, to and from anywhere at UCSB or in Isla Vista, by calling 805-893-2000. Did I mention it’s FREE?

If you choose to drink, use MODERATION! Sure I’m just a dumb cop, but on your fourth attempt to stand up after failing to climb that huge six inch curb, I start to get a bit suspicious that you might be a bit sloshed.

If you choose to drink alcohol, keep it at the party and out of the street. The tickets get more expensive every year and we write a lot of them. Also, you may think no one will notice, but trying to hide it in a water bottle or other container is not that original and you still run a really good chance of getting stopped and cited. Really? Your Arrowhead water is orange? Yeah …

Lock your doors and windows. Burglaries and laptop thefts are huge in Isla Vista and at UCSB. The vast majority of them occur when thieves walk in an unlocked door and take the laptops just sitting around the room. Or if at the library, don’t leave your stuff for a minute, even to go to the bathroom. “I was gone just two minutes” is a very common statement in theft reports.

If I stop you, don’t lie! If you give me a fake name, I will find out as soon as I check the computer system and instead of a ticket, you will end up in jail for the night. Be honest, take the ticket and fight it in court if you want, but don’t make it worse by giving me a bad name.

Have fun. Just use common sense and common courtesy towards your fellow community members. This is a great place, but just be safe and you will have a great year.

I am out of time for this article. In the next installment I will start answering some of the questions you have sent me over the summer. But in the meantime, I am still available to answer your questions at any time. Just call or email me and I will do my best to help you out. Never hesitate to “Question Authority!”

Sgt. Mark Signa