The Dark Side of Isla Vista: Our College Town Could Improve


Coleman Gray

It takes only one Saturday night, and one near constant barrage of sirens, to give us the idea that Isla Vista is not exactly the quiet, beachfront community that we tell our grandmothers it is. And I shudder to think how my Nana would have reacted to this past weekend’s madness of Deltopia. But despite what all our nanas, and grannies, and “bubbes” might say, can we all just admit that we had a good time? And we do most every day. But after having a week to recover, process and look back on abject absurdity of Deltopia and the IV experience, one cannot help but wonder: does the “-topia” suffix stem from a collegiate utopia in which we can experience things that every other college student can only imagine, or is a dystopian society in which our perceived happiness and safety shrouds real fear a more apt comparison?

I do greatly enjoy living here and have had my fair share of stumbling back home after late nights only to walk into an unlocked house. But I personally would not want any of my female friends walking alone at night in IV. Despite my, and most every other male’s, best efforts to always to try to bravely walk them home, sometimes even I don’t feel completely safe walking around IV at night. At night, the blocks seem longer, the shadows seem spookier, and the streets seem darker. And the definite lack of streetlights (an IV quirk that I am still not able to understand), does little to assuage one’s fears, and probably contributes to the prevalence of much of the acts which inspire our fears in the first place. But unfortunately this fear of the dark, that may be all too justified, cannot be solved by simply pulling the sheets up over your head and convincing yourself that you are safe.

Look, there’s no reason to sugarcoat it: this town is not the safest place in the world. We all know it. But at the same time, we all live with it. The sheer number of people in such a small area is staggering and creates an inherent problem, in that there physically cannot be enough policing for all the people of Isla Vista. Couple that with alcohol and a partying reputation, and there are bound to be some people who ruin it for the rest of us. And those people can cause some seriously devastating damages. Unfortunately, we have our fair share of robberies, battery, and sexual assaults. But there is no way that type of behavior should be accepted as an eventuality and disregarded. However, it also doesn’t mean that it can be done away with without our help, and that does not mean we must be stuck in a perpetual state of fear. All we need is some more proactive behavior; we do not necessarily have to call the cops every Friday night, but we would be doing our community a disservice if we were to continue to stand by and let people take advantage of our town.

It wouldn’t take much, just a slight change in our casual attitudes toward Isla Vista. Despite whatever small town you grew up in, Isla Vista doors should be locked, friends should be accompanied by friends, and people should try their best to maintain their wits about them. Even if nothing has happened to your house, your friend, or yourself, creating an atmosphere of confidence and safety can go a long way to making this place a much safer community to live in, and one that would therefore be even more fun. And maybe one day, we might be able to live in a community where we can have our grandmothers visit for the day. Just as long as they’re gone by 5:30.

Photo by John Clow