Thursday, October 25, 2007

Police prepare for IV Halloween festivities


When the Goleta Amtrak platform is bustling on a Thursday night in October with college students from throughout the state, it can mean only one thing: the six-tenths of a square mile that is Isla Vista is about to more than double in population for the annual Halloween festivities.
While it might mean big business for taxicabs, liquor stores and Amtrak, it also represents the biggest event of the year for local law enforcement agencies, who plan to flood the seaside college enclave with more than 200 officers this Friday and Saturday.

“It’s a major operation,” said Sgt. Erik Raney, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. “It is the most taxing operation of the year for the Sheriff’s Department in terms of logistics, resources and expenditures.”
Last year the Sheriff’s Department budgeted roughly $228,000 to cover law enforcement operations during the Halloween festivities.
With the beefed-up police presence, Raney said law enforcement netted 351 arrests last year and issued 393 criminal citations, the majority of which were for alcohol-related offenses committed by nonresident partygoers.
Raney said the police presence will assisted by the UC Santa Barbara Police Department, the Sheriff’s Gang Enforcement Unit and the California Highway Patrol, which with the help of the Sheriff’s Traffic Unit, will be on the lookout for drunken drivers.
Raney said the Sheriff’s Department estimates 30,000 to 40,000 people will crowd into Isla Vista, which is populated by 17,000 residents.
The message to all of the partygoers is simple, Raney said.
“The law will be strictly enforced,” he said. “Violators will be issued a citation or taken to jail.”
Raney said a new policy implemented by the District Attorney’s Office stipulates that any minor convicted of public intoxication will have their driver’s license suspended for one year and be fined $525 to $1,000.
He said the Board of Supervisors passed amendments to existing public nuisance and festival ordinances that give law enforcement additional authority to shut down unruly parties and also gives the County authority to impose civil fines on party hosts.
When Halloween falls during the middle of the week as it did last year and will this year, Raney said the party doesn’t stay significantly elevated each day leading up to Oct. 31.
He said this weekend the law enforcement presence will spike, and compared a midweek Halloween to any other weekend at Isla Vista, where only 20 deputies regularly are on patrol. He said on Halloween, the Sheriff’s Department plans to have 50 deputies on patrol there.
In order to ensure there are enough deputies in Isla Vista, the Big Game between Santa Barbara and San Marcos High School football teams, which is scheduled for tonight at San Marcos’ Valley Stadium, was pushed forward two hours to 5 p.m.
Raney said the Sheriff’s Department will close roads to vehicle traffic at Trigo Road on Friday, Saturday and Wednesday evenings. He said these closures will prevent all vehicle access to Sabado Tarde and Del Playa Roads to residents and non residents. Public parking in Goleta will also be limited and many businesses will close their parking lots.
The CHP will conduct a sobriety, driver license checkpoint on Saturday night in the Goleta area from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
“Checkpoints tend to reduce the number of drinking drivers on the road, even though arrest totals do not rise dramatically,” said Don Clotworthy, a CHP spokesman.
Raney said one way to limit problems is to keep the partying local.
“Local residents can help keep the festivities a local event by not inviting out-of-town guests, and discouraging out-of-town visitors from coming,” he said. “The Sheriff’s Department and other public safety officials urge residents to have a safe and enjoyable Halloween. Be responsible and keep it local.”

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