The Daily Nexus sat with Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr to discuss the County’s reaction to last weekend’s Deltopia riots. During the interview Farr revealed that the surveillance cameras on Del Playa Drive are planned to be removed by the beginning of next week. Farr also discussed the repercussions of last weekend’s riots, the origin of the cameras that were suddenly placed around Isla Vista and the County’s plans to prevent an incident like Deltopia from happening again.
DN: What has the County’s reaction been to the riots that have occurred this past weekend during Deltopia?
DF: I think we were shocked. We were kind of angry, and very sad. This is a wonderful community in so many ways filled with people who care about the community and who are bright and passionate and involved in so many different issues. To see this kind of behavior — particularly the anti-law enforcement behavior — was very disappointing. And I know that a fair amount of it was probably fueled by people outside the area, but clearly there were people living here that threw bottles or threw rocks, and that makes me very sad.
DN: What is your response to claims about tensions between students and law enforcement prior to Deltopia due to the spontaneous appearance of surveillance cameras around Isla Vista?
DF: The issue of whether we should have surveillance cameras in Isla Vista has been discussed for a couple of years now. At some point in time the university put some on their property here in Isla Vista, at the I.V. Theatre and Embarcadero Hall. So then in particular after the stabbing and the very brutal rape we had a month or so ago, the discussion about the use of surveillance cameras came back again. And it was my understanding that law enforcement was going to see if they could find money or write a grant and if they were successful then we would [know] how much money that was for and where in the community might be the best places to find them, similar to what the university has already done here. But then the university because then the monitoring on the Deltopia page, there seemed to be so many people that were planning to come, it really concerned everybody in terms of trying to protect the community. So then the university administration found some money, had a discussion with the Sheriff’s Department and said, “If we can find some money for you to purchase cameras, would you be interested in doing that? And it would be really great if we could get them up in time for Deltopia.” So that’s what happened.
DN: Did the County fund the cameras in Isla Vista or have any say in them getting put up?
DF: When they put the cameras up was when I found out this had occurred and that they were going to be there through Deltopia. They were going to take them down earlier in the week but then discovered another Facebook posting — someone trying to organize another event this weekend — and so they decided they would keep them up one more week to get through this coming weekend to see whether they might be necessary. But it is my understanding they’ll be taking them down. The ones that are on the pole there in Del Playa will be taken down at the beginning of next week. And then I’m sure they’d bring them out again if they felt it was necessary for another unsponsored event.
DN: Do you think we should have these cameras set up in I.V.? Are they a good thing?
DF: I think that we’ll see how well they work and how useful they work during Deltopia. Clearly law enforcement needs as many tools as it can have to try to locate and prosecute the perpetrators of the crime, and we have some very serious crime in Isla Vista. I think they will probably be reassessing that need, it’s important to remember that the Sheriff is the dually-elected law enforcement officer for the county and has powers in that capacity to protect public safety. So in regard to the cameras, I know they were considering it, but I did not know that they were going to come up in time for Deltopia. It was not something that came to the Board of Supervisors. That was the Sheriff Department’s and UCSB’s decision to partner in that effort. What did come to the Board, which comes to the Board every year, is the possibility to close off the streets in case we think it’s necessary. And this would be done just outside the street in front of the I.V. Foot Patrol office so they could station vehicles and equipment.
DN: What are some things the County is thinking of having in place next year and in the future in order to prevent incidents like this happening again?
DF: I think it’s going to be a partnership of everyone who’s concerned about this issue, as well as the people who live here. For the people who live here — it’s your community. People who live here are going to have to model what they want to happen. The administration of the University and City College, they are going to need to get involved … giving a clear understanding of what the rules are and what are the consequences are — what can happen to you if you’re involved in an incident like this, if you are arrested or convicted. And of course the county has a role … we will be looking closely at the ordinances that govern Isla Vista and seeing whether there’s room for improvement there and ways that we can better protect the community.
DN: What have the expenses been for the damages of this past Deltopia?
DF: That’s still being added up, and it will be expensive. You can’t put a price on pain and suffering. A lot of people starting with law enforcement officers and maybe bystanders who were hurt, they paid a heavy price. But the cost for all of the extra law enforcement, for medical costs, for all the other emergency responders that came in from all over the place, the damage to the streets, to the sidewalks, to the stop signs, to the private property, all those people’s cars that were damaged and windows smashed and danced on … different people will bear different parts of those costs, but for the county alone it will be very expensive. And this is not something that has its own separate amount of money. The Sheriff’s Department budget comes out of the general fund budget, and that money we use to fund people that need mental health care, foster children, homeless people, public health clinic, all the things that county government does which are funded at least in part by the general fund. So the more the county has to spend money on protecting people during these unsponsored events is less money for all of these really important things we need to do.
DN: What role do you think social media had in inviting the hoards of people that came here this weekend?
DF: Huge — it was huge. On one hand, we know that if you put something out on the Internet it has an international audience, on the other hand, I think people somehow think they can keep it only local, and that if they put it on social media it will somehow only be seen by people they want to have come. That’s clearly not the case. A majority of the people that were cited were out of the area, and not just that but had little to no connection with anyone here in the community. So they came and they didn’t know anybody, so a lot of them didn’t have any place to stay. They didn’t know the area, they didn’t respect the community, or the residents, and they didn’t know or respect our law enforcement people. Halloween has been going on a long time before social media and people from other places came here and all that, but at least those people had a place to stay or some kind of connection. Now with social media it goes out to a worldwide audience.
DN: Why do you think a potential sponsored event in place of Deltopia would be beneficial to the community?
DF: When somebody is willing — or an organization is willing — to step up as a sponsor then they’re willing to say, “I take responsibility. We’re going to post the bounds that are necessary for potential damage of liability, we’re willing to pay for the extra law enforcement, willing to pay for porter potties, willing get other sponsors from the community,” like they do at other festivals, to help us offset the cost.
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.