Isla Vista Foot Patrol will not install temporary surveillance cameras in Isla Vista for Halloween weekend, abandoning tentative plans that the station proposed over a month ago.
Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP), a station in the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, originally planned to install between two and four temporary cameras along Del Playa Drive. The cameras would have recorded activity on public property for the Friday and Saturday nights of Halloween weekend, according to Lieutenant Garrett TeSlaa.
UC Santa Barbara students voiced their opposition to surveillance at an Oct. 14 town hall sponsored by the Office of the External Vice President for Local Affairs (EVPLA) of Associated Students.
A petition to “Say NO to Surveillance in Isla Vista” started by EVPLA Hailey Stankiewicz garnered 471 signatures as of Oct. 29. The petition highlighted the office’s concerns that the use of cameras would invade student privacy, exacerbate instances of racial profiling and potentially aid in the prosecution of locals for minor crimes.
Stankiewicz received notice about the decision change by TeSlaa on Oct. 26 and informed the community later that day in a press release.
“Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office has decided against the use [of] video surveillance cameras in Isla Vista over Halloween weekend 2022,” the press release said.
“While Isla Vista Foot Patrol is not at liberty to disclose the myriad of factors that ultimately went into the decision, the EVPLA office was informed that the concerns, frustrations, and reservations voiced by UCSB students and Isla Vista community members at recent public community forums were taken into consideration.”
TeSlaa, recently appointed as the station commander for IVFP, declined to provide further comment on any specific tactics or equipment that will be used for Halloween weekend.
TeSlaa also declined to clarify his previous claims that local law enforcement have regularly employed video surveillance cameras in I.V. for past Halloween weekends, which have been disputed by local community leaders.
“For over twenty years, we’ve used temporary cameras to assist us with management of the Halloween weekend,” TeSlaa said in an Oct. 10 statement to the Nexus. “Cameras are used to assist with the apprehension of serious offenders, gauge crowd size and dynamics, and assist with response to medical emergencies.”
TeSlaa reiterated the claim at an Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) board meeting on Oct. 11 during a discussion on Halloween street cameras.
IVCSD President and Director Spencer Brandt expressed his confusion about the possible past use of cameras in I.V. in an interview with the Nexus.
“To my understanding, it’s the first time that they are looking to put this surveillance in place for Halloween,” Brandt said. “I know that they have shared other information about that, but it’s never been instituted for Halloween the entire time that I’ve lived here.”
“I’m confused by it,” Brandt continued. “It’s possible that this is something they did in the past, but they did it very covertly.”
IVCSD Director Jay Freeman, a resident of Isla Vista since 1999, expressed his personal doubts as to the factualness of TeSlaa’s claim. Freeman referenced the temporary tower lighting systems that IVFP used as a crowd management tactic in the 1990s, saying he never noticed cameras installed on them.
“I’m hearing at these recent meetings that they’re saying that these light tower generators may have had security cameras on them the whole time,” Freeman said. “I don’t really believe it, but maybe.”
Brandt said that, to the best of his knowledge, IVFP most recently used surveillance cameras for Deltopia 2018, a decision met with scrutiny and opposition from the community.
“I remember this because there was a lot of frustration about that, and a lot of worry about what those cameras were being used for and why they were put up at the last second without any public notice,” Brandt said. “It’s possible that there were cameras at other times where no one noticed, but I find it difficult to square that with my own personal experience as an elected leader in the community.”
Stankiewicz said the short notice on whether IVFP would use surveillance cameras may have left students feeling “in the dark.”
“I recognize that for a lot of students, it might be a really big point of frustration that an answer about whether the surveillance cameras were put up or not came out so close to Halloween weekend,” Stankiewicz said.
Stankiewicz also highlighted that although surveillance cameras will not be placed along Del Playa Drive, IVFP still plans to increase its patrol for Halloween weekend, and deputies will all carry body cameras.
“Even though the surveillance cameras aren’t going to be used, they still have body cams, and they’re still upstaffing and that’s still something that students and community members should be aware of when thinking about their rights in regards to law enforcement,” Stankiewicz said.