As many as 18,000 partygoers flooded Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista near University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) this past weekend. Sunny weather brought with it an unprecedented large crowd and more than 400 calls to law enforcement.

Samantha Sullivan

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Halloween in Isla Vista, one of the most famous college parties in California, draws tens of thousands party-goers each year. However, University of California, Santa Barbara has a clear message for people from out of town: stay away.

UCSB Associate Dean for Student Life Debbie Fleming bought an advertisement in Mustang News for the first time Monday, warning students to steer clear of Isla Vista this coming weekend.

Since Halloween falls on a Thursday this year, Fleming is anticipating a larger draw for out-of-towners to attend. She’s trying harder than ever to send the message that it’s not the best weekend to come, she said.

Fleming couldn’t afford to buy an advertisement in every CSU newspaper, but she chose Cal Poly because of the proximity.

“There’s a feeling of being neighbors, but maybe this isn’t the time to be neighborly,” she said.

Fleming said this was not an effort to blame Cal Poly students and said UCSB students contribute to the problem as well. The UCSB students she’s spoken to, however, said they’d prefer Halloween to be a local event, she said.

The advertisement claimed 90 percent of those arrested during past Halloween weekends were non-UCSB students. Fleming said UCSB tracks the numbers of arrests and citations at Isla Vista on a weekly basis. Throughout the years, fewer than 10 percent of arrests made and citations given involved a UCSB student.

“That 90 percent is accurate historically over the last 10 years,” Fleming said.

It’s also a “numbers game,” Fleming said. When tens of thousands of people flood Isla Vista, most of those people will be from out of town. These visitors draw attention from law enforcement because they are often wandering the streets with nowhere to go and also don’t know the laws, she said. For example, Isla Vista does not allow “open containers,” meaning people can’t drink from cans or bottles containing alcoholic beverages in public.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, which has a division known as the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, sees an increase in arrests, citations and medical calls during the Halloween period.

Last year during the weekend prior to Halloween, there were 196 jail bookings, 249 citations, 71 medical calls and 19 search and rescue calls made, Sgt. Mark Williams said. Most of those cases were related to alcohol, including public intoxication and alcohol poisoning.

Hundreds of police officers will be deployed for the notorious weekend. Officers from various University of California schools will accompany officers from the sheriff’s department and the UCSB police department. UCSB police department Sgt. Robert Romero said they’ve asked for aid from UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Irvine and UC San Diego, something they’ve done for decades.

The Halloween period drains Santa Barbara County resources, Fleming said. Halloween costs the county approximately $500,000 each year, mostly because of the extra police officers and overtime pay needed, she said.

For the past four or five years, UCSB has promoted a “Keep it Safe, Keep it Local” message to students and community members, Alex Moore, external vice president for local affairs and UCSB political science senior said.

“We’re talking about 20,000 people coming to Isla Vista which is really, really small,” Moore said. “We’re less than a square mile.”

For example, at this past spring’s Deltopia — another event which sees hordes of “out-of-towners” flocking to Isla Vista — Moore said thousands of dollars’ worth of damage was done to cars parked out on the streets. There were many thefts of laptops, iPads and other expensive electronics, and lots of trash left behind.

Moore said people have fallen off the cliff-sides during previous Halloween parties. Cal Poly sociology freshman Giselle Ayala fell from a cliff and died during Deltopia this past spring quarter.

Ayala was also on Flemings’ mind when she considered where the advertisement would appear, she said. Preventing someone who doesn’t know much about the community from coming and keeping people safer would be another good outcome of the advertisement.

“That was a tragic outcome of a visitor coming to IV,” Fleming said. “We certainly don’t want that to happen again.”

Strict ordinances will be in place during the Halloween period according to the Halloween at UCSB website, including:

  • No live or pre-recorded music loud enough to be heard outside one’s residence from Oct. 26 through Nov. 4 starting at 6 p.m. and lasting until 7 a.m.
  • No overnight guests are allowed in UCSB University Housing beginning at 5 p.m. Oct. 30. through 5 p.m. Nov. 3.
  • No fake weapons, even if they are part of a costume.

“The sheriff just takes away trash can loads of fake axes and stuff like that related to Halloween costumes,” Moore said.

Additionally, if police observe illegal activity, the officer will ask for school affiliation in addition to a piece of identification.

Moore encourages Cal Poly students to “enjoy Halloween in San Luis Obispo.”

“If (you) do decide to come, make sure you know the laws ahead of time, make sure you know about the dangers like the cliffs here,” Moore said. “Make sure you’re not just wandering around all night, because that’d be a real bummer, especially with the drive.”

Join the Conversation


  1. IV Halloweens are over rated! Because of the crowds you end up feeling like cattle, while everyone is super drunk walking around. It takes forever to get anywhere, you can’t have any music playing outside, and you can’t drink anything even water out of a cup outdoors or you risk getting arrested for drunk in public. Poly people do yourselves a favor and stay away from it. I feel like it was all hyped up to be way way more fun than it really ever was. If you go to a friends house party up here, I am sure you’ll have a lot more fun and not have to drive 2 hours to stand around like it’s a music festival, only without the music.

    1. Honestly, Halloween has been blown too big for its own good. You’ll have more fun coming on a less crowded weekend because you’ll actually be able to do things without LA riot police checking everything.

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