Watch the Curb: A Concerning Amount of Alcohol Poisonings over Halloween Weekend


Houston Sasselli

News Editor

Known for its bustling college scene, Isla Vista (I.V.) is faced with a significant challenge this October. The month witnessed an alarming increase in alcohol overdoses, forcing the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office (SBCSO) and local organizations to take a closer look at the issue. Their solution: an extended ordinance from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4. The community still grapples with the party culture that persists in the area, leading to a move of the student-run festivities to earlier in October due to an increase of public-run activities near Halloween’s end. 

As the 2023 Halloween weekend in I.V. came to a close, SBCSO, in collaboration with community stakeholders and I.V. foot patrol, developed a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of residents and visitors celebrating the holiday. It was an operation plan as a result of thorough planning meetings, community feedback, and a review of the area’s historic activity in the weeks leading up to Halloween. The ordinance makes clear that amplified or live music that is audible from a residence within specific boundaries encompassing El Colegio Road, Camino Majorca to Storke Road, Ocean Road to Stadium Road, and the Pacific Ocean in the unincorporated area of I.V. was prohibited. The extended ordinance went into effect from Oct. 26 and ended on Nov. 4 during the hours of 6 p.m.-7 a.m. of the following day.

One key component of this plan is an extension of Section 6-70.01 of the Santa Barbara County Code, a general regulation that pertains to amplified music during specific time periods, including Halloween weekend. The ordinance is designed to address issues related to noise and amplified music, which often accompany the celebrations in I.V. 

The recent surge in alcohol overdoses in I.V. is also a concerning trend that continues to demand attention. Multiple emergency calls were made to first responders, highlighting the urgent need for medical assistance. Friday, Oct. 18 witnessed five confirmed alcohol-related calls for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) within a two hour time slot between 11:30 p.m.-1:09 a.m., all following a call of a transformer on fire. The frequency of the calls led to a delayed EMS arrival of 16 minutes due to backed-up traffic, not to mention the streets filled with partiers. These all underscored the challenges faced by first responders in the crowded streets of I.V., which have seen continuous partying in the lead-up to Halloween weekend.

With the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors voting not to extend the current ambulance contract held by the private contractor American Medical Response (AMR) for 2024, there may be an expansion of EMS for transport across the county. In case first responders need to use barricades to reroute or limit access to certain areas due to safety concerns, the Sheriff’s Office intends to keep the public informed through their X (formerly Twitter) accounts: @SBSOPIO and @SBSheriff. They also plan to share a recap of the activity early next week and express their commitment to ensuring a safe Halloween celebration in I.V.

Still, that would not stop the sheer number of alcohol-related citations during Halloween weekend. With an influx of students coming from outside schools, there is a high charge of Minors-in-Possession (MIPs) and other alcohol infractions floating about. A look at UC Police Department’s Daily Crime Log reveals that there were 114 citations involving alcohol in the month of October, with 60 occurring between the two days of Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 — mostly open containers and MIPs. As such, there seems to be an obvious move forward to the Halloween festivities, where the noise ordinance doesn’t affect the party culture. 

However, it isn’t all rules and regulations. The UC Santa Barbara community hosts events like Delirium (a concert on Oct. 28), Rocky Horror Picture Show on Oct. 27, and a pumpkin patch at Ansiq’Oyo Park. It might seem like compensation for the many protocols at the end of October and the early stages of November, but it is all for the safety of the community. With the excessive amount of alcohol overdoses and the stress put onto the first responders, these events are an effort toward preventing any further damage to individuals in the community. 

As I.V. continues to grapple with the persistent party culture that seems to adapt to changing circumstances, a multifaceted approach that involves law enforcement, community organizations, and educational institutions could be a crucial answer in addressing the issue of excessive alcohol consumption in the community. By working together and staying vigilant, the community can promote safety and responsibility while preserving the vibrant spirit of I.V. during Halloween and beyond.