Halloween 2013: Law and Order Loom Over Celebrations


Giuseppe Ricapito
IV Beat Reporter

Halloween in Isla Vista can only mean that debauchery and decadence once again reign over the streets. Isla Vista’s total nightly population can balloon to more than a 25,000 during the holiday weekend, so an increased police presence has been mandated as a counterpoint to the depravity set to run rampant.

In order to counter the influx of visitors, Isla Vista essentially falls into partying martial law. But under the threat of incarceration or ticketing, students can utilize common-sense strategies to keep out of trouble.

“The main way to stay out of trouble, especially as far as with the law, is to avoid the Big Three,” said External Vice President of Local Affairs Alex Moore. “The highest number of arrests comes from drunk in public, minor in possession of alcohol, and open containers.”

The Festival Ordinance is in effect from Saturday, Oct. 26, until Monday, Nov. 4, which means a ban on music audible outside a personal residence between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. Road closures — on the 65 through 67 blocks of Del Playa and Sabado Tarde; the 65 block of Trigo, El Nido, and at the IV Loop; as well as portions of Camino Pescadero, Camino del Sur, and El Embarcadero — essentially creates a police boundary cordoning off automobile traffic on the beachside swath of Isla Vista.

Though the official expectation is “Keep it Local! Keep it Safe!,” few students will be shutting their doors on visiting friends at the behest of Festival Ordinance guidelines.

With this in mind, Moore recommended that students should simply “Be a good peer” while out on the streets. His viewpoint suggests that working as a community can achieve a universally positive Halloween experience.

“Being a good human being is a great way to help out your fellow students and prevent any safety problems,” said Moore.

Robin Unander, an advising attorney at the Legal Resource Center in Isla Vista, suggested that the way to avoid arrests or citations is by complying with the weekend’s ordinances.

“There’s essentially zero tolerance, so there’s no tolerance from the police to give a warning,” said Unander.

Moore expanded further on the Halloween zero-tolerance policy.

“During our public forums a lot of police officers have stressed [that] Halloween is really kind of zero tolerance,” said Moore. “They don’t take the same amount of time to give a warning, per se. They’re giving a ticket, then moving on.”

Around 200 police officers will be keeping their eyes on the swarms of costumed students during the Festival Ordinance. Though some of the officers are from the local IV Foot Patrol or Santa Barbara Sheriffs, Unander explained that the event required the bussing in of even more officers, with paid overtime, to handle the size and scope of the weekend mandate.

She noted that the local officers “know how to work with students,” but the cops “that don’t have any kind of regular exposure to IV…are probably the ones that are not necessarily the best to be out there enforcing things.”

Unander maintained that students should be aware of the increased police presence.

“It’s not the job [of the cops] to be nice,” said Unander. “And a lot of times, they aren’t. And if they aren’t, typically it’s because they’re not the normal guys working out here.”

A police officer was not available for comment on the Festival Ordinance, but informational packets available at the Isla Vista Foot Patrol office provide safety tips, parking information, and an itemized list of fines for the various citations common to Halloween weekend.

Shedding light on the seemingly duplicitous behavior of police on Halloween weekend, Unander acknowledged, “I hear also a lot of abuses by law enforcement.”

On the night of Oct. 12, at the corner of Seville Road and Camino Pescadero, Isla Vista residents Jocelin Hernandez and Ofelia Bello claim they were aggressively handled by the Foot Patrol and arrested for unclear reasons. Following a “verbal altercation” (in which Hernandez and Bello were not involved) in the street, officers arrived and promptly handcuffed Hernandez, who was attempting to leave the scene.

Each of them claims to have been sober — they even remember going as far as to ask for a Breathalyzer test (which was denied) to be put on record. Video and audio footage depicts an emotionally heightened event; through the voices and streetlight-blotted darkness Bello can be heard in the background yelling at the officers, “She wasn’t doing anything, she was just standing there! You threw her on the fucking floor!”

Both were booked for obstructing a police officer and resisting arrest. They spent the night in the Santa Barbara County Jail.

Hernandez, who is only 5 ft. tall, claims, “intimidation was obviously a big tactic” for the Isla Vista and jail officers, even though “she wasn’t a threat.” She spoke on multiple issues of mistreatment and verbal abuse.

“It was explicitly very unethical…if we could call someone we would probably call 911, but we were in jail,” said Hernandez.

Bello acknowledged that she “doesn’t like feeling victimized,” but felt obligated to speak out on the controversy.

“Their methodology is flawed,” said Hernandez. “That raises concern for us because we don’t know how often they do it, to who else they do it and how many cases go unheard of because they’re brushed under the carpet.”

Unander seemed to indicate that the situation was not particularly unique.

“I’m not commenting on whether she was lawfully incarcerated or not, but I don’t doubt that she feels that she was unlawfully apprehended,” said Unander

Speaking on the Halloween weekend, Unander stated that though certain police action may not be entirely justified, students should not expect special or gentle treatment.

“Because there is such a heightened sensitivity and zero tolerance by law enforcement at this time of the year, the cops don’t care,” said Unander “If you break an arm, that’s bad. But if they leave some bruises, they don’t care as long as they accomplish their goal, which is to maintain order.”

The only sure-fire way to stay out of trouble is to avoid potentially incarceratory situations, but within the fermenting cluster of flowing alcohol, drug use, and street fights, anyone can get caught in the crossfire. The official UCSB Halloween website provides a section on “Knowing Your Rights.” If students keep their wits about them, this essential knowledge could end up their saving grace.