Undercover police officers crashed some college parties over the weekend in Isla Vista, issuing nearly 40 citations or arrests during so-called state-funded “party patrols.”
Isla Vista Foot Patrol officers on the lookout for underage drinkers dressed in street clothes and then entered parties that were deemed open to the public on Del Playa, Sabado Tarde and other Isla Vista streets.
Officers in those operations on Friday cited or arrested 23 people for alcohol-related offenses, including minor in possession, and another 12 on Saturday night, according to Kelly Hoover, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees foot patrol operations.
The party patrol operations were sponsored — and encouraged — by a $50,000 grant IV Foot Patrol received from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC.
The grant requires party-entering operations, but was mainly awarded last fall to target local businesses selling alcohol to minors or those buying alcohol for them, she said.
Although the IV Foot Patrol has conducted party patrols in the past, and since last fall, Hoover said current students might not have been aware of the operations because local authorities have not received the ABC grant for several years.
Typically, undercover officers and ABC agents make initial contact with students in the driveway or street of the college community adjacent to UC Santa Barbara, Hoover said.
Upon contact, and after officers identify themselves, they ask for identification from someone who appears underage.
A minor in possession citation could be issued, or reprimands for any other illegal activity observed.
Officers then track down the owner, renter or party host, especially if a beer keg is present, Hoover said.
“All initial contact with people are in open areas, not inside people’s homes,” she said. “If there’s a party taking place and the public is clearly free to come and go … that’s established by law as a public venue. Police officers, including those undercover, can go into the residences without a warrant. We conceive violations just from viewing things from the outside.”
Punishment can involve a significant citation or other penalties, which can include losing his or her driver’s license.
The current grant, which includes educational classes outlining violator penalties and how to identify fake IDs, lasts through the end of the school year.
Hoover said local authorities plan to reapply for the grant, so she suggested IV residents throwing parties keep their doors shut to indicate a private party.
Officers never knock on closed doors or pretend to be students, she added.
“The ABC grant is an important part of our operations,” Hoover said. “We are very interested in cracking down on businesses and people who furnish alcohol to minors, but we’re also looking at people who hold open parties to the public and don’t have any accountability for who they’re supplying alcohol to. The message here is you can’t just throw a party open to the public, start pouring alcohol to minors, and have no repercussions.”
Authorities believe fewer citations and arrests were made Saturday because word got out about the party patrols the night before.
“We understand that it may not be a popular tactic for party hosts, but our job, our responsibility, is to keep the public safe and to keep the residents of Isla Vista safe,” Hoover said. “Any time you mix minors and excessive drinking you’re going to have bad things happen. Underage drinking leads to sexual assaults, altercations and overall crime.”