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Trouble in Isla Vista

The Neighborhood Is Going to Hell in a Handbasket


There’s a famous line from The Godfather: Part III in which Michael Corleone says, “Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.” That is the way I feel about the negative vortex that seems to surround Isla Vista right now. Just when things have calmed down, and interested parties have begun to regroup and work toward bringing about positive change, there is more trouble.

Cat Neushul

On August 2, three incidents occurred that put Isla Vista in a bad light yet again. The first crime occurred at approximately 3:20 a.m. on Sueno Road. On his way home, a man was approached by a suspect holding a handgun, demanding money. When the victim was unable to comply, the suspect fled. The suspect was described as being a college-aged Hispanic male, with a dark complexion, black hair, and wearing a dark-colored, zip-up sweatshirt.

The next incident occurred on Sabado Tarde Road sometime around 3:30 a.m. It was also a robbery involving a firearm. The suspect approached the victim asking if he had change for a $20 bill. When the victim opened his wallet and showed the money, the suspect pulled out a handgun and demanded that he hand it over. The suspect took the money and fled. He is described as a college-aged Hispanic male, about 5’9”, 140 pounds, with medium length curly, dark hair and dark skin, wearing jeans and a dark sweater.

The last crime also occurred at about 3:30 a.m and involved a man entering a young woman’s apartment, masturbating, and giving her a kiss before leaving. A young woman reported seeing a Hispanic male in his thirties standing on her patio. She left the apartment for 30 minutes, and when she returned her roommate said she had woken up to find the man standing over her. The suspect is described as dark skinned with a shaved head, 5’6” and 220 pounds. He was said to be wearing a baggy white T-shirt and baggy blue plaid shorts.

And That’s Not All Folks

The crimes that end up on the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s blotter are the particularly noteworthy ones. Smaller incidents occur all the time. This week alone, the police were called to break up a fight on my street at 3:30 am, and to investigate a suspect brandishing what looked like a firearm, but ended up being a pellet gun, on the next block.

I’m not sure why 3:30 a.m. is the witching hour, but the fight on my street started around this time. Unfortunately, the house at the end of our street seems to be cursed. No matter how nice the residents are, there seems to be trouble. This time it was a huge fight that involved people screaming obscenities (in English and a Slavic language), knocking things over, and waking up everyone. After a neighbor called the police, officers showed up and arrested several people. It took an hour for the police to sort everything out and finish interviewing the people involved.

The day before, around mid-afternoon, several police cars were parked on the next block. They were investigating a report of a suspect with a gun. They descended on the man with guns at the ready. Turned out that the guy was holding a realistic-looking pellet gun. Why anyone in I.V. would think it was okay to brandish a pellet gun, or any other sort of gun, in this particular climate is baffling. In the past, students have thought it was fun to use pellet guns to shoot at birds or other animals. While it was merely disgusting before, now it is reprehensible. Obviously the guy who was descended upon by a swarm of police officers learned his lesson, but what about everyone else? Maybe every resident should be given a list of stupid things people do in I.V. and the repercussions that might ensue.

The Trouble with Isla Vista

The area has to receive a social makeover and change the prevailing culture. Again and again, students claim that they have the right to party, get wasted, and play their music as loud as they want. In the past, good-natured debauchery was accepted. However, things have changed. The debauchery has taken a negative turn. There is nothing fun about murder, rape, robbery at gunpoint, and general mayhem.

Many suggestions have been made to improve the current situation. Here are a few:

UC Santa Barbara and SBCC could kick out students who run afoul of the law a certain number of times. Kind of a “three strikes you are out” kind of rule.

UC Santa Barbara could hire students living in I.V. as local representatives for a type of community watch program. Their job would be to get to know everyone in a particular area, identify potential problems, and provide a contact person for residents with questions or concerns. Just as residence halls have a resident assistant, each block or street of I.V. could have a local representative.

• Local residents have recommended that police begin regular foot patrols throughout I.V. Community policing in which officers get out of their cars and interact with residents on a daily basis seems to improve results. As part of this effort, police officers could take a particular block, get to know who lives in each of the houses, and identify issues before they become problems. Some houses never have any problems, and others have chronic issues. Preventative measures could be employed.

• One of the other suggestions involves Isla Vista developing a form of self-governance, such as becoming a city, being annexed by a local city, or creating a governing association like a community council. Local meetings are planned to discuss this possibility. The next one is scheduled for October.

Any way you look at it, however, it is clear that something needs to be done. The status quo is not working. I.V. needs a makeover, and some positive press — pronto.

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