Just a little more than a week ago, Isla Vista felt like a war zone during what is being called a riot. For hours, a helicopter circled Del Playa, police sirens blazed, and there was a pervasive feeling that things could definitely get worse. I watched KEYT as “protesters” stood their ground, and the SWAT team, in their battle regalia, waited to move on the crowd. In the end, tear gas was thrown, rubber bullets were fired, and people dispersed.
At the time, I felt nothing but anger. No one likes to be kept awake until 1 a.m. and advised to stay inside because your neighborhood isn’t safe. However, I wasn’t surprised. When I saw swarms of people parking their cars on my street and wandering down to Del Playa on the Friday afternoon before Deltopia, I had a feeling that things could go wrong. Like locusts, more and more people from out of the area descended on I.V. throughout the weekend.
The thousands upon thousands of people who were invited, or not invited, by locals to participate in Deltopia created a situation that was unsafe. This isn’t something new in I.V. Parties snowball into unsafe situations. When 10 people get together and party, things are usually fine. When 400 people show up to a party, there can be fights, robberies, vandalism, and many other types of problems.
Last year’s Deltopia celebration was relatively quiet. When I visited downtown, all I saw were droves of peaceful drunken people, wandering around in bikinis and swim trunks, with floatation devices in hand. There was one tragedy, however. Giselle Ayala, an 18-year-old student from Santa Rosa, fell off the cliffs during a party and was found on the beach by a jogger the next day.
The Deltopia riot is just one in a string of crimes that have occurred in I.V. recently. A young woman was gang raped on the UCSB campus in February (the suspects still haven’t been apprehended), and stabbings, robberies, assaults, and other crimes seem to be on the increase. Santa Barbara County officials, the police department, UCSB, and many others have responded to the aftermath of the riot, knowing that things have got to change, or they could get worse.