In the more than eight years I have lived in Isla Vista, there have been crazy Halloween weekends with tens of thousands of people crowding the streets, and there have been quieter ones, but never one like this. This Halloween, the streets of I.V. were relatively quiet. There was parking available, very little noise, and a feeling of calm.
Some people say the rain thwarted some of the partygoers, but I think there were many other reasons. UC Santa Barbara administrators joined forces with county officials, the police department, and local representatives to come up with ways to make I.V. particularly unattractive. A festival ordinance was put in place prohibiting amplified music between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. (or risk a $500 fine), there was a zero tolerance policy (underage drinkers could risk losing their driver’s license for a year if caught), and DUI checkpoints were set up.
These policies, and the subsequent fines involved, were publicized far and wide to both college students and many other potential visitors. Parents from area high schools and junior highs were sent information about potential fines and punishments for those coming to I.V. for Halloween, and they were encouraged to talk to their children about avoiding the area. Area high schools also provided this information directly to students and outlined exactly what would happen if they were caught drinking or engaging in other illegal activities. The fact that one of the consequences was loss of a driver’s license for a year was particularly daunting to many students.
A Facebook site called Keep Isla Vista Safe was created to get the word out about Halloween this year. It featured pictures and ads with such slogans as “#not worth it,” “#ivhalloween.” The posts have vivid pictures, like one showing a man in handcuffs, and detailed information about infractions. One of the posts stated, “Under 21? If you’re arrested for public intoxication or possession you will lose your license for a year and be placed on probation for three years.”
Another factor that may have dissuaded people from coming for Halloween was the fact that 300 police officers were on call. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office released initial tallies of arrests and citations: less than 40 arrests, less than 40 citations during the two-day Halloween period. In 2013, a three–day Halloween, more than 200 arrests were made and 250 citations issued.
A variety of parking restrictions were put in place. Many areas in I.V. were closed off. Fences along Camino Majorca prevented people from parking near the bluffs, and temporary “no parking” signs were set up along various streets. The City of Goleta also restricted parking. Local residents were given parking passes, and all others were turned away.
But UCSB didn’t just emphasize the negative: The university also offered an alternative to the traditional Halloween debauchery. A free concert was held at the Thunderdome featuring the band Young the Giant. The concert went on until 1:30 a.m., providing students a way to experience a different kind of Halloween night.
It was amazing to see the effect these efforts had on I.V. It was the best nonevent ever. Now that we know this type of collaboration between UCSB representatives, S.B. county officials, and the local community can bring about wonderful results, it’s our task to make sure that this keeps on happening. If Halloween can be transformed from a nightmare into a quiet local celebration so quickly, imagine what else can be accomplished.