Next year’s Deltopia will see a “triple” in the number of police forces and emergency medical responders from this year, Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lieutenant Garrett TeSlaa said at the May 14 Isla Vista Board of Directors meeting. The decision follows a record number of citations and emergency medical response calls during the 2024 annual unsanctioned street festival.

Next year’s Deltopia will see an increased police response, according to a report from IVFP Lieutenant Garrett TeSlaa at the May 14 IVCSD meeting. Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re going to be looking into several hundred police officers, deputy sheriffs, state agents for future years until we are able to manage the emergency services portion of this event,” TeSlaa said.

The 2024 Deltopia saw an attendance of roughly 20,000-25,00 people, a level around the 2014 Deltopia attendance and 15,000 more than in 2023, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office (SBSO). It was the first festival with new county ordinances — where only 250 people are allowed at a party and paid parties are illegal, among others. It was also the first Deltopia where restorative justice — a community program where I.V. residents can get nonviolent misdemeanor citations waived by doing community service and taking a restorative justice class — was controversially suspended.

TeSlaa presented the breakdown of the April 6-9 Deltopia data and his stance on policing to the Board of Directors, emphasizing that Deltopia is a “mass-casualty incident.” Over the Deltopia weekend, he said there were 156 emergency medical response calls — triple the number of calls from 2023. 35 emergency medical services (EMS) calls required hospitalization and 56 people were treated at a medical triage tent at Little Acorn Park.

“If we didn’t have that position at the tent with the support of Cottage, we would’ve seen hospitalizations closer to 80 to 86 people, which would’ve completely maxed out every hospital in the county,” TeSlaa said. “​​I think next year we’re going to do a better job at explaining to the public this is a medical emergency event, not necessarily a law enforcement event.”

As part of its deployment strategy, over 100 officers from SBSO, Alcoholic Beverage Control, UC Police Department and Santa Maria Police Department were grouped into public nuisance teams, designed to enforced the ordinances, rescue task force (RTF) teams, which transported incapacitated individuals, and the Sheriff’s response team on Del Playa Drive. TeSlaa called the deployment similar to policing on I.V.’s Halloween before it was clamped down on.

The public nuisance teams shut down 13 parties — 12 for breaking the occupancy limit and one for charging for entry. TeSlaa said the one party that was shut down for charging received several warnings directly from SBSO and was the first to be cited for breaking the ordinance. The party hosts are now facing charges from the District Attorney’s office. 

The parties did not see the same peak attendance of 3,000-4,000 at 2023 Del Playa parties, but spilled outside of the street into several smaller parties, TeSlaa said. 

“That proved to be incredibly effective at keeping a lid on the size of the parties,” he said. 

The number of RTF teams doubled since 2023, with 156 EMS calls in 2024 versus 66 EMS calls in 2023. However, there were not enough teams to keep up with the overwhelming medical emergency situation. The first overdose report was at 10:15 a.m., and county ambulances were soon at capacity at 10:30 a.m. Ambulances from San Luis Obispo (SLO) and Ventura County had to be transported to I.V. 

“We ended up in a situation for an hour or two where our deputies were overrun with medical calls themselves. They were loading up overdoses into pickup trucks and minivans to get them to the triage tent because AMR medics couldn’t get there fast enough,” TeSlaa said.

244 citations were issued and 31 people were arrested over the weekend, concentrated during the peak of Deltopia on Saturday. Of the arrested and cited who gave their information, 24 identified themselves as locals, 19 from UCSB, eight from UCLA,  five from Santa Barbara City College. There were also three from California Polytechnic University, SLO and 145 from out of the county.

“There’s a good chance that most of these locals are UC-affiliated, but they just wouldn’t tell us,” TeSlaa said.

TeSlaa noted that most parties complied with the party ordinances, as party hosts practiced self-policing with ahead-of-time reservations through POSH Vip, a party reservation app, or used wristband systems for entry.

“What’s interesting is the promoters profiting off of this a year ago are now utilizing some of the same systems to make sure their party stays under 250,” TeSlaa said.

After the presentation, IVCSD directors asked TeSlaa questions about the IVFP’s processes and the proposed increased police response. 

Director Kristen Deshler asked if I.V. could be closed to all vehicular traffic for Deltopia weekend, like during Halloween, to which TeSlaa said no as it would be a “logistical nightmare” to conduct law enforcement services over the weekend. 

She also asked if the 6 p.m. noise ordinance on Saturday applied to parks and businesses and if the UCSB Associated Students Spring Warm-Up Concert helped deter the crowds. TeSlaa said all parks and businesses are privy to the ordinance, and the concert hasn’t significantly helped since 2014. 

When Deshler recommended IVFP advise what UCSB could be doing to help them, TeSlaa expressed a desire to have a line of dialogue with new students in a “low-stakes environment,” but said the University might want to keep law enforcement at arms-length.

An attendee commended the IVCSD’s alternative event during Deltopia, the Spring Festival, and recommended parking restrictions in Goleta as many vehicles parked in the Target or Costco parking lots as roads north of Trigo Road were closed for Deltopia.

IVCSD director Olivia Craig asked TeSlaa why he called the suspension of restorative justice a success, to which he said it was a success media-wise as he did multiple interviews explaining the decision to press.

“Restorative justice is for people who are local and cooperative and compliant with us, and participation in an event like Deltopia is uncooperative and uncompliant to the idea of a community Isla Vista is,” TeSlaa said.

IVCSD director Spencer Brandt expressed concern over TeSlaa’s media strategy to increase outreach to other schools, because it promotes awareness of the festival and brings more out-of-towners. Brandt noted that in past years, community members halted proactive communication with other campuses regarding Deltopia for that reason.

“I’m not going to hold you to it and say that your strategy was all wrong because the event got bigger,” Brandt said. “But I do think we need almost like a Steve Jobs-level media strategy consultant to get us all together and coordinate it because … I don’t think the media strategy is successful.”

He recommended looking to other college campuses, in regards to pro-Palestinian student encampments, as to what might work to “de-escalate” large events.

“You can get into a place where it’s a death spiral of like, you put more police in a situation and you do more enforcement and that enforcement causes more people to come and be part of the chaotic situation. So the situation becomes less safe,” Brandt said. “If we continue in one place without having a positive outlet, I’m concerned what next year leads to and how we may be inadvertently contributing to that death spiral.”

Several directors affirmed support for bringing back the “Keep it local campaign,” which was not emphasized as much as in previous years.

The directors speculated why drinking began much earlier than in previous years, as TeSlaa noted public drinking as early as 5 a.m. Deshler said when she asked students why they drank so early, they said it was in response to the changes in the ordinance. However, the 6 p.m. curfew on Saturday is the same ordinance as in previous years.

“People hear enforcement, they don’t hear what it is,” Brandt said. 

Environmental horticulture SBCC student and IVCSD director Ash Valenti pointed out concern over how enforcement can affect behavior in ways that make behavior worse and less safe.

“I’ve seen parties where people will take a bunch of shots and they’re like, ‘you know, we’re not allowed open container,’ as opposed to walking around with a can of beer,” Valenti said.

TeSlaa did not respond during public comment at the meeting, per IVCSD meeting procedure. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 5 of the May 23, 2024 print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at lizzyrager@dailynexus.com