Isla Vista’s party scene hit a new low in 2014 when a crowd of youthful rioters — mostly out-of-towners — hurled projectiles at law enforcement, eliciting a tear-gas-filled response. For students, law enforcement, and UCSB, things could have not looked worse.
Fast forward only 364 days, and the boisterous, beach-themed block party had a subtle but markedly different feel. Scantily clad students still meandered up and down Del Playa Drive in the sun and music, yet out-of-towners were fewer and further between, unable to find a party to crash. Fewer houses blared music past the festival ordinance–mandated 6 p.m. noise curfew. And groups of UCSB students in distinctive shirts roamed the community offering their peers warnings of the impending curfew, handing out water, and calling in medical services when needed.
Those student volunteers were the first iteration of “UCIV,” a UCSB group that emerged from talks between local law enforcement and representatives of the university’s Associated Students government for a softer, student-led approach to patrolling the community. While UCIV has no enforcement power and is not formally affiliated with the constabulary, they’re a “go-between between law enforcement and the residents out here,” says I.V. Foot Patrol Lieutenant Rob Plastino.
“I don’t think [the zero-tolerance status quo has] worked,” he said. “I don’t think that’s been successful. So, my mindset was, ‘Let’s try something different.’ Let’s be open to other possibilities, and some of the best ideas come from students on campus.”
The 40 students who participated in the program a year ago ballooned to 100 for this past Halloween — a number UCIV is shooting for again, Ashcon Minoiefar, an Associated Students senator and a founder of the program, told me.
For their joint efforts, Deltopia 2015 witnessed a previously unimaginable zero tickets issued for noise violations, and this past Halloween also recorded minimal citations and arrests.
Minoiefar recounted an incident last Deltopia where UCIV aided a student having a medical emergency.
“Their friends were too afraid to bring them outside because the officers were out there. And so one thing that’s cool about the UCIV program is that [the volunteers] are students, so they can kind of go places that police can’t. And because they were there and talked to them, they assured them that it was fine, that we’d go get search and rescue, don’t worry about it. And our volunteers are connected to medical services, and so they were able to get the medical attention they needed.”
Both Minoiefar and Plastino cited overwhelmingly positive feedback.
“People were really receptive to it. They were very appreciative,” the senator said.
“I think a lot of it is at least we’re trying,” Plastino said. “Even though we haven’t gotten to what I would say is the perfect [policing] model, we’re trying to get there. And I think people can respect that we’re at least attempting some different things that haven’t been done before.”
UCIV is becoming a symbol of Foot Patrol and UCSB’s active effort to restructure patrolling tactics as they search for the most effective model of policing. The incorporation of students’ involvement and ideas as well as a greater concern for the safety and image of their community have resulted in a stark downturn in citations and misbehavior since Deltopia 2015, improvements that have made Plastino hopeful that the volume of barricades, medical tents, and officers needed on these big days can be reduced to that of a normal weekend if the trend continues to hold through next fall.
Residents’ cleaning up their act ultimately came down to their willingness to effect change, whether it be shunning out-of-towers, attending the concerts UCSB has begun throwing during Deltopia and Halloween, or volunteering for UCIV. The program, Plastino said, is just the visible embodiment of this cultural shift. Deltopia ’16 will be a sort of litmus test for how much I.V.’s culture has changed as well as how suitable the emerging new policing paradigm is.
In addition to warnings, water, and medical calls, UCIV will also be handing out snacks and condoms during this Deltopia, which is informally scheduled for April 2, the first Saturday of UCSB’s spring quarter. Students and I.V. residents interested in volunteering can sign up at the UCSB AS Public Safety Commission’s Facebook page.