Move-in day marks a significant change in the city of San Luis Obispo. With roughly 21,000 new and returning students coming in, the city experiences a dramatic shift away from the quiet summer many residents enjoy.
With the sudden jump in population, businesses get busier, buses are more crowded and traffic increases. However, one of the main concerns for residents and law enforcement is the increase in parties and party-related behavior.
From move-in day through the first week of classes, there are typically increased calls to local law enforcement concerning party-related behavior. In 2013, San Luis Obispo City Council designated the beginning of the Cal Poly school year a Safety Enhancement Zone to curb this type of behavior.
The Safety Enhancement Zone is a period of time where fines for specific violations are doubled. From move-in day through the Monday after the first week of school, the following violations’ fines are doubled:
- Noise disturbance
- Urinating in public
- Open container
- Possession of dangerous and deadly weapons
- Social host (when a host is fined for hosting a party where minors drank alcohol)
- Unruly gathering
This year, the Safety Enhancement Zone was in effect starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 16 and ended 7 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 26. There was a reported 45 percent decrease in party-related noise calls— 178 to 99— from 2015 to 2016 according to a San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) press release. Noise citations also decreased from 34 to 24.
Graphic by Cecilia Seiter
Overall, there was a decrease across the board from 2015 to 2016 in all violations. Drunk in public citations went from 51 in 2015 to only 21 in 2016, which was a dramatic shift from the steadily increasing numbers since 2013.
The decrease in violations is due largely in part to the combined efforts of local law enforcement and the university.
SLOPD Captain Keith Storton said SLOPD made an effort to reach out to community members and make contact with students.
“Officers went to neighborhoods known for having parties and knocked on doors to just introduce themselves, welcome them to the neighborhood if they had just moved in and reminded residents of the double fines,” Storton said.
Business administration senior Lauren Colvin received a ticket for her party on Monday, Sept. 19.
“It was around 11:45 when the police showed up,” Colvin said. “They were bike cops so they probably just heard the party as they were riding by.”
Colvin told the police it wasn’t a party for freshmen and that it was just seniors there, but they informed her she was still getting a ticket.
Colvin received a $700 ticket, and — because property owners are also issued a citation by SLOPD — her landlord’s citation was passed on to her, making that a total of $1400.
“I understand why we got the ticket, they were enforcing what they were supposed to do,” Colvin said. “I just don’t think we were the problem.”
Despite their low tolerance for violations, officers still issued warnings in the form of Disturbance Advisement
DACs are issued to residents who have a noise violation and act as a warning. This warning allows for residents to quiet down before getting a ticket. However, once residents receive a DAC, a noise call warrants an automatic ticket.
DACs are typically issued by Cal Poly and Cuesta College students who are a part of the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program (SNAP). These students make contact with residents who are in violation of noise ordinances to issue warnings before law enforcement becomes involved.
“There is an 80 percent compliance rate once someone get’s a DAC,” Storton said.
After receiving a DAC, most residents quiet down and parties usually end.
The university also takes proactive steps to ensure students are educated on how to party responsibly rather than telling students not to party at all.
Incoming students are given tips on how to drink and party responsibly through programs like Aware Awake Alive and education seminars with SLOPD and the University Police Department.
The effectiveness of alcohol education can be seen in the decreased number of minor in possession citations during the Safety Enhancement Zone. The amount of citations has decreased every year since the creation of the Safety Enhancement Zone, with a record low of only 15 citations this year.
Graphic by Cecilia Seiter
“The emergency department at Sierra Vista Medical saw far fewer extreme alcohol intoxication cases than it had in 10 years,” Ron Yukelson, chief business development officer at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, said.
Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center has also made an effort to remind students that Sierra Vista is a “safe zone,” meaning that if a student is taken to the emergency room, Sierra Vista will not involve law enforcement or the patient’s family.
The return of Cal Poly students can be seen as a negative thing by some San Luis Obispo residents. But with more students partying responsibly and remaining mindful of the community, a more positive relationship between students and the community can be fostered, says Storton.
“We are very appreciative of Cal Poly and what it brings to the community,” Storton said. “We want students to be a part of the community and to