Undercover cops busting house parties in Isla Vista gained attention after three deputies dressed as partygoers entered several open homes carrying an empty box of beer on April 18. The operation, dubbed a “party patrol” in the Alcoholic Beverage Control grant under which it runs, was reported in UCSB student paper the Daily Nexus. It resulted in multiple misdemeanor citations issued at homes and apartments on Sabado Tarde and Del Playa, according to Isla Vista Foot Patrol’s Lt. Rob Plastino.
Plastino told The Santa Barbara Independent that the plainclothes operation has been ongoing since this fall and has existed for decades. In this two-day sweep, dozens of citations were handed out to minors in possession of alcohol and to hosts for serving alcohol to minors and for noise and nuisance violations.
House parties in Isla Vista are very much “public venues,” the lieutenant explained, due to the openness of the events and the culture of the city. The patrol targets parties “where people can come and go from the streets” unchallenged, he said, including his officers. After they leave, the adults “are allowed to continue to party as long as they like.” He added that deputies dressed in civilian clothes are under no obligation to divulge why they are entering a public party; if asked if they are law enforcement officers, they are allowed to maintain their hidden identity.