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Isla Vista is bracing for another monster party

Up to 30,000 revelers are expected for the annual Halloween bash. Police try to scare off outsiders.

October 28, 2006|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

ISLA VISTA, CALIF. — It's a rite of autumn here.

The pumpkins have been carved, the costumes have been assembled, and the warnings about predatory, out-of-town criminals have been sounded.

A couple of hundred officers are honing their crowd-control tactics. Search-and-rescue specialists are sharpening their techniques for maneuvering through mobs to retrieve fallen revelers.

Halloween comes again to Isla Vista.

The annual bash, which starts in earnest this weekend and lasts through Tuesday night, has been the stuff of legend, inspiring admiring blurbs in such party-hearty periodicals as Playboy. Toned down over the years, it also has inspired grand jury investigations and crackdowns by local police and officials at UC Santa Barbara.

This year more than 200 officers on foot and on horseback will patrol the narrow streets of this community crammed with students near the seaside campus. Undercover state alcohol inspectors will troll parties for people serving minors. A booking center will be established outside a university building in the center of town; last year, there were 273 arrests for burglary, assault, vandalism and other crimes, not to mention public intoxication.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 29, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Nobel laureates: An article in Saturday's California section about the annual Halloween revelry at Isla Vista said there were three Nobel laureates on the UC Santa Barbara faculty. There are five.

With three Nobel laureates on the faculty, the university has emerged as a top-tier research center. Henry T. Yang, the chancellor, and other top UC Santa Barbara officials routinely drop in on the colorful celebration, though it's heavy on the flesh tones and considerably more raucous than, say, a prize presentation in Stockholm.

Early Friday evening, preparations were in full swing. Jason Kline, 21, a Santa Barbara City College student, was helping a friend roll a keg of German beer on a skateboard from a liquor store to the house he shares with half a dozen other students. "We've got like 20 people staying with us this weekend from as far as Hawaii," said Kline, an Oahu native. "We're all looking forward to seeing the girls in their skimpy outfits and all that good stuff."

As many as 30,000 people are expected to jam the streets, checking out the scene and each other under the bright lights erected by sheriff's deputies. To get in, they'll have to pass through barricades and surrender anything that can be used as a weapon -- skateboards, Jedi light sabers, rubber knives, witches' brooms, plastic pitchforks.

"One year we had a guy come as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre," said Sheriff's Lt. Sol Linver, head of the 24-member Isla Vista Foot Patrol. "We took away his chain saw."

Last year, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital's emergency room had to turn away patients for about an hour because it was swamped. More than 40 people had been rushed there with alcohol poisoning, Linver said. This year, medics will set up a 10-bed staging area in a special tent in Isla Vista, and extra ambulances will be stationed there to rush the most serious cases to area hospitals.

"We're running this as somewhat of a multiple-casualty incident operation," said Marc Burdick of Santa Barbara County's Emergency Medical Services Agency. "We're treating the whole Isla Vista area as a working incident."

The Sheriff's Department, county officials and the university have joined forces to drive home this year's theme to students: beware of outsiders.

"Keep it local!" a university handbill urges. "Isla Vista is invaded by people who don't care about you or your community.... Invite your out-of-town friends another weekend."

At least 75% of those arrested last year were not students, according to police records.

"There are a lot of people coming into the community from all over the state," said Associate Dean of Students Carolyn Buford. "Most of the students would like to keep it local. A couple of years ago, some of them put up a sign in Isla Vista that said: 'Go Away!' "

At a community meeting last week, the Foot Patrol's Linver was blunt: "People are coming here to victimize you," he said. "We have gangbangers who love to come out here and beat on college students."

Over Halloween, the local burglary rate triples, with thieves slipping into parties and slipping out with laptops, purses, video cameras and other valuables. Last week, sheriff's deputies fanned out across the county, surprising dozens of gang members and sex offenders on probation or parole with word that "the Halloween weekend in Isla Vista will have a no-tolerance enforcement posture," according to a news release.

Parties too will be strictly monitored. A local "festival ordinance" bars live or recorded music that might draw a crowd of 500. With a cast of thousands cruising Del Playa, Isla Vista's main residential street, that effectively bars any music that could be heard on the street above the din of the crowd.

"We had to cancel our show," said hip-hop entertainer Eric Manges, who had been planning an event for a houseful of students. "Even if we did our best to regulate and organize it, we'd still be drawing belligerent crowds who wanted to get in but couldn't -- or belligerent crowds who were already in and just came to fight."

Officials said the aim of the heavy enforcement is not to shut the event down.

"We hope you have a safe and sane and responsible party," Linver said. "But don't be afraid to call us."

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