Deltopia Del Playa | Credit: Courtesy

Preliminary reports and data on the 2024 Deltopia festival in Isla Vista showed an increase in citations and arrests from the year prior, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Raquel Zick. The annual unsanctioned block party, held the first weekend after students return from spring break, saw significantly larger crowds than last year’s event, even after rain and wind on Friday made for a relatively calm first day of the weekend-long party. 

In total, 256 citations and 32 arrests — up from 151 citations and 23 arrests in 2023 — were issued by the Sheriff’s Office and its partner agencies, which included the UCSB Police Department, a small contingency of Santa Maria Police Officers, and agents from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Additionally, there were 13 illegal parties shut down in accordance with the newly passed Social Host Ordinance after law enforcement encountered partygoers on rooftops, on the bluffs, violating noise ordinances, and, in one instance, hosting a paid party. 

One male adult was arrested for a DUI during the Sheriff’s Office checkpoint in Goleta after he collided his vehicle with another while in line at the DUI checkpoint. In total, 846 vehicles passed through the checkpoint, of which only 310 were screened, and only the aforementioned incident resulted in a DUI.

The report highlighted that there were no incidences of cliff falls or fentanyl overdoses. At last year’s Deltopia, a UCSB junior suffered a fatal overdose.

While these were positive takeaways, said I.V. Foot Patrol Lieutenant Garrett TeSlaa, the Deltopia festival can never be considered a “success.” According to TeSlaa, deputies successfully prevented one man who reportedly attempted to harm himself by running off a bluff edge. Additionally, detectives with the Sheriff’s Office are following up on two separate reports of sexual assaults in Isla Vista. Both investigations are currently ongoing. 

Rooftop Partygoers | Credit: Courtesy

“[Deltopia] is never a ‘success’, especially when we have two reports of sexual assault,” TeSlaa said. “It is an unfortunate event that we have come to expect every year as a direct result of Deltopia … consistent every year.”

One of the most prevalent issues last year were large paid or unpaid parties and the inability of first responders to provide emergency medical treatment, a problem which, unfortunately, TeSlaa said, was compounded by the crowd size.

“We had partygoers passing out in front of cops, completely unresponsive, as a result of acute alcohol overdoses or a combination of drugs and alcohol,” TeSlaa said. In general, he continued, the community was compliant, especially with smaller, free parties. But the areas law enforcement and medical services faced difficulties were the packed crowds congesting Del Playa Drive and preventing ambulances from getting through. 

TeSlaa explained that Deltopia directly impacts first-aid response in other parts of the county when medical and fire services are isolated to Isla Vista. During the peaks, he described, law enforcement officers had to transport individuals with medical emergencies to the pre-planned triage via pickup truck and minivans because ambulances were either unavailable or could not get through the swaths of crowds. 

The 2024 Deltopia festival was the first major test for Santa Barbara County’s newly passed Social Host Ordinances, which faced community criticism for a 24-hour suspension of the Restorative Justice Program. However, according to TeSlaa, suspending Restorative Justice “didn’t have that big of an impact” but “probably will continue in the future,” as county officials believed it did achieve the goals of educating the public on safety and keeping in accordance with laws. 

Deltopia Rescue Team | Credit: Courtesy

One success TeSlaa commended were the efforts conducted by Supervisor Laura Capps’s office, the Isla Vista Community Services District, and the UCSB Associated Students to educate the community on the dangers of opiates, and especially fentanyl. The group distributed information and the life-saving treatment Narcan to I.V. residents prior to the event

“Thanks to Supervisor Capps, the IVCSD, and Associated Students, we didn’t have a fentanyl overdose death like we experienced last year,” TeSlaa said.

TeSlaa concluded by stressing that Deltopia causes more than just short-term impacts on the community. ”When you have two ongoing sexual assault investigations, witness acute alcohol poisoning, and have to prevent a cliff fall, you are reminded that Deltopia can cause long-term injuries,” he said. 

Survivors of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the Victim-Witness Assistance Program directly at (805) 568-2400 or toll free at (855) 840-3232. 

“The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind survivors that they can also find support services through our community partner, Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA). Services offered by STESA include a confidential 24-Hour hotline, legal and medical advocacy and accompaniment, and counseling. You can reach a STESA advocate at any time by calling (805) 564-3696.”

During the unsanctioned party on Del Playa Drive, the IVCSD hosted its third annual I.V. Food & Music Spring Festival as an alternative to Deltopia at the I.V. Community Center and Little Acorn Park in Isla Vista. The Spring Festival featured six bands and partnered with local food vendors Roger’s Tacos, Elubia’s Kitchen, Maria’s Tacos, and Zocalo to offer free food to festival-goers. 

According to a press release from the IVCSD, more than 4,000 Isla Vista residents attended the free festival, which also provided a Safety Station that offered free services, including safety escorts, water and snacks, sunscreen, cell phone charging stations, and a safe space to rest. The report included that “alongside the Safety Station, an EMT tent was on site” that “served over 50 individuals … and worked in partnership with local EMS providers.

“Our location, being only one block from Del Playa, I believe, is crucial to continued success, and the growth of our Spring Festival attendance each year,” said Marcos Aguilar, IVCSD Board President.

Jonathan Abboud, IVCSD general manager, concluded the report by highlighting a “concerning number of medical emergencies out in the rest of the community” as something that needs to be addressed in the future. But Abboud pointed to the Spring Festival as an event “that promotes public safety by drawing people away from the street and private parties to have fun in a safe environment and provide resources for their health and well-being.”

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