With fall quarter around the corner, Isla Vista Foot Patrol is preparing for a “No Open Container” campaign to educate incoming students on the Santa Barbara County ordinance that bans open containers from public areas of the community.
“Each year we have a new group of residents living in or near Isla Vista and are not aware of the culture or laws associated with the community,” said Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP) Public Information Officer Raquel Zick in a statement to the Nexus. “The goal of the No Open Container program is to educate new and returning students that open containers are not allowed in public areas of the community, such as sidewalks, streets, parks, and beaches.”
Zick added that this campaign will allow IVFP’s deputies and officers to interact with incoming students in an open setting.
“This will also allow deputies and officers to interact with the new students in a positive way to help build relationships and provide them with resources to help them thrive in their new community,” she said.
IVFP Community Resource Deputy Justin Schroeder said this ordinance has been in place for years throughout California.
“It is actually a county ordinance [that] applies anywhere in the unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County and each city has its own ordinances basically stating the same thing,” he said in a statement to the Nexus.
The ordinance, Santa Barbara County 36-3, deems consuming “intoxicating liquor” in the “unincorporated areas of the county” on any public street, sidewalk, highway, parking lot or alley unlawful.
“I believe every county in California has a no open container law and most states across America also have some kind of similar ordinance,” he said. “Many of the open container citations are issued in Isla Vista, but there is also a significant amount written in the unincorporated area near Goleta.”
Schroeder said the information program has been in place for years to prevent community members from violating the ordinance by mistake or because they were not aware of the law.
“There are a lot of young people from out of the country that get citations and claim that they didn’t know having an open container was against the law because it is legal in their country,” he said. “So we hope to be able to inform those folks before they accidentally violate the law and get a ticket.”
“I also think it will be a good reminder for people who might accidentally leave a party holding an open container so if they see a sign maybe they will dispose of that beverage before running into a law enforcement officer and [getting] a ticket,” Schroeder continued. “The main mission is to provide information to new residents so they know the rules, stay safe, and don’t get a ticket.”
Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) Director and President Spencer Brandt voiced his personal concerns regarding the campaign, from potential racial disparities in its enforcement to invoking a community sense of living in a “police state.”
“I have friends that have been stopped, just for having a water bottle, and being asked to hand it over so that law enforcement could investigate it and smell it,” Brandt said. “In many cases, the people who are stopped aren’t doing anything wrong, so it can feel very uncomfortable for the person who’s being stopped in that situation.”
Brandt noted that there are racial disparities in the enforcement of the ordinance as well, citing that while Black residents make up 3.3% of the Isla Vista population, they are arrested and cited at a rate more than double their population, according to data found by IVCSD staff in 2019.
“I don’t think that’s equitable,” he said. “I don’t think that it’s conducive to building a good relationship between law enforcement and the community.”
Brandt said that enforcement of the ordinance is typically heavier during Isla Vista weekends, especially during events like Deltopia weekend — an annual unsanctioned street party in I.V. However, he said that IVCSD has worked to advocate for lower numbers of law enforcement officers stationed throughout the area.
“In the past, I think it really has made folks feel like they’re living in a police state, a kind of environment that doesn’t always feel safe,” Brandt said.
However, IVFP is focusing more on education than enforcement this year, according to the presentation it gave during the IVCSD Aug. 9 meeting this year.
“I think that education rather than enforcement is really the key to law enforcement building strong, open relationships with the community,” Brandt said. “I’m happy to hear that there is going to be more education, because for many residents who are new to our community, they may not know what the local laws are.”
The original plan for the campaign was to speak at UC Santa Barbara’s freshman orientation, but Schroeder said IVFP was unable to do so. He said they will likely perform a door-to-door campaign with flyers instead.
Schroeder said, “UCSB is also talking about possibly holding ‘IV 101’ information sessions at the I.V. Theater where I would be able to speak, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.”