I wish I could say I had a great, light-hearted article for everyone this week. The ED191 class I took recently provided me with a ton of great questions to answer, covering everything from how the job interacts with my personal life, to issues with drugs and the homeless community, even what my favorite flavor of ice cream is (that last one being my favorite). When tasked with being forced to answer a question, I tend to go the, “What’s your favorite ice cream?” or, “Exactly how many mosquitos are in the Amazon?” route nine out of 10 times.
Sadly, though, when I tried to write this article with my usual tongue-in-cheek perspective, it just didn’t feel right. Over the past week, we have seen some terrible things in Isla Vista that I wish I could say were just anomalies. I can’t say that though. It’s true that the level of brutality involving the sexual assault last Sunday morning was one of the worst that we have dealt with, but considering the fact that I was involved with two other sexual assault cases that weekend, I’d have to say that this sort of crime is happening to varying degrees way more often than people would care to admit.
This week, I, along with a cadre of detectives, officers and deputies, spent a lot of time going door-to-door canvasing the neighborhoods, passing out flyers and contacting residents. I spoke with a lot of residents, encouraging them to contact us if they or any of their friends had any information that might be helpful. Almost every person I spoke with was familiar with what had happened, and expressed outrage that something like that could happen in our community. I appreciated everyone’s compassion and concern for the survivor. That was good. But I couldn’t help but think: Where is the compassion for the other two survivors I worked with that weekend? Just because they were not beaten does not take away the brutality of what they had to deal with. What about the other women, and sometimes men as well, who are assaulted every week? We need to be outraged for them as well.
It’s not that I am pointing the finger at our community and saying, “Shame on you!” Our town is full of caring and kind people who do look out for others and try to help people when they are in need. I see this every weekend when I’m working. We hear countless offers to try to get an intoxicated person home so they don’t have to go with the police or in an ambulance, and just because we usually say no to these kind citizens, it doesn’t lessen the fact they are trying to help. Then recently, when a UCSB student saw a terrible act and took it upon himself to go to the authorities to report what he saw, his courage helped a young women get a good shot at bringing some justice against those who had wronged her. So yeah, I do see a lot of stupid acts every week, but I also see a lot of good. We just need to start seeing more from all of us.
I encourage everyone to take a little time to look at our community. Whether you are a UCSB student, a SBCC student, a professor, or even just someone who is here every day for work, we are all a part of this community. We all play a role in making this town and campus a better and safer place. If you see a young woman sitting on the curb, ask if she is okay or if she needs something. I think you would be surprised how many will assure you that they are fine, but they’ll feel just a little bit better that people out there care enough to check. How many people have you walked past thinking that they are just fine, but it turns out they really did need some help? I am just as guilty of this as everyone else. Passing a car fire a while back, my wife asked if we should call 9-1-1. “Nah,” I answered, “it’s been going for some time. I’m sure someone called already.” Frankly, I was a jerk. Maybe no one had called and someone had actually needed some help. I didn’t care enough to take the few seconds to call for them. “I’m sure they’re fine” was not an acceptable response, and looking back, I feel that I failed them.
In the future, I hope I can do better. I hope we all can do better. I have always believed that 99 percent of the people in Isla Vista are good people. Even when they get in trouble, it’s usually just because we all make mistakes. We fix them and move on. We are still good people. So I guess rather than answering questions this week, I will pose one instead: How can we do better?
Please watch out for each other and stay safe. If you are alone walking home or see someone alone, call for a free CSO escort at 893-2000, or even call 9-1-1. I still love Isla Vista, and I hope that when I do leave this town, I can leave it knowing it’s getting better. But that will be up to all of us.
Sgt. Mark Signa is ready to get back to answering the questions now … so about those mosquitoes…
Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the po-po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let them eat away at you — Question Authority! Email me anytime at: QA@police.ucsb.edu or call UCSB PD at 893-3446.