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Thursday, March 21 , 2019, 7:52 pm | Partly Cloudy 55º


Isla Vista Tries to Scare Off Students Ahead of Monster Halloween Bash

A community meeting serves as a warning for underage drinkers and others with tens of thousands of revelers expected over the weekend

At a meeting Tuesday night focused on discouraging local high school students from going to Isla Vista during Halloween, the 10-person panel barely outnumbered the small audience.

Representatives from local law enforcement, medical services and the justice system attended as panelists, and encouraged students to avoid the party hot spot. They also detailed plans for the upgraded staffing required to keep partygoers and Goleta residents safe.

In a 2003 video of a Friday Halloween, tens of thousands of people crowded Del Playa Drive, walking in slowly moving streams past dozens of law enforcement officers and deputies.

Last year’s Halloween also fell on a Friday, and Isla Vista hosted about 45,000 people in its one-half-square-mile area. About 235 people were booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail, and about 600 were issued citations. Most incidents were drug- or alcohol-related, according to Brian Olmstead, the station commander for the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, a division of the sheriff’s department. In addition, 58 people were taken to local hospitals.

“It’s really a negative event,” Olmstead said. “With that much booze and that many people, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Although it’s an nonsponsored event, it typically costs the sheriff’s department about $1 million in additional staffing for the two- to three-day period.

This weekend, there will be 250 police officers and sheriff’s deputies in Isla Vista alone, and an extra 100 people handling the logistics of medical services and emergency services, including extra dispatchers.

Students are urged to skip the event altogether, to avoid possible medical or legal consequences.

CJ Boyer, a patient care technician at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, said the majority of patients who come to the emergency room during Halloween are females, and most of them are ages 18 to 21.

The emergency room increases its staffing for Halloween, but it has only nine beds, Boyer said.

Medical issues range from minor to severe, including alcohol- and drug-related conditions, stabbings, sexual assaults, wounds from fights, drunken-driving injuries, falls off cliffs and more.

“Alcohol keeps me in business,” emergency room physician Dr. Brett Wilson said. “There’s no good that comes out of being in IV.”

Legally, underage drinkers face many possible consequences. Possession of drugs or alcohol, drunk in public, assault and driving under the influence are some of the issues. A criminal defense attorney and representative from the Council of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse attended Tuesday’s meeting and urged teens not to take the chance.

School resource officers, who are deputies with the sheriff’s department, are on patrol during Halloween and often recognize local underage students.

Other county agencies, including the fire department and search and rescue, will be on hand to provide medical assistance and transport out of the crowded Del Playa area. The panelists said that most of the people who end up with medical issues are heavily intoxicated.

There was also concern Tuesday about the spread of the H1N1 flu, since the disease has been reported recently throughout Isla Vista.

The panelists said they realized that despite warnings, some people will be determined to attend. “If you do go there, go with people, have a plan and have some ID with you,” search and rescue’s Nelson Trichler said.

Cameron Gray, a UCSB graduate who now works for AmeriCorps, said local underage students and out-of-towners are usually the ones who get in trouble. They don’t know the lay of the land, don’t know their own limits and don’t have friends in the area, he said.

“There’s danger and opportunity,” Gray said. “If you’re underage, the danger outweighs the opportunity for fun by a lot.”

People with problems in or around Isla Vista during Halloween are urged to call 9-1-1. There are hundreds of additional law enforcement officers in IV and Goleta for the weekend who can respond quickly to incidents.

The California Highway Patrol will handle traffic safety, including DUI checkpoints and directing traffic around IV, Commander Jeff Sgobba said.

A weekend at Isla Vista is busy for law enforcement regularly, Olmstead said. Last weekend, there were 13 arrests and 70 citations. He said there are easily 5,000 to 6,000 people partying in the area on a typical weekend night.

Though law enforcement tries to manage the event, crime and partygoers do leak out into the neighboring communities. Alcohol increases crime, including fights, sexual assaults and property crimes, Olmstead said.

Representatives from UCSB and SBCC didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting. Isla Vista is in the county’s jurisdiction, so the university isn’t always involved with those who are arrested, even if they’re students.

UCSB does have a parental notification program, which sends out a letter if a student is involved in alcohol- or drug-related crimes.

Last month, a meeting was held for Goleta residents and others regarding preparations for the Halloween weekend.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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