Law enforcement discusses plans to prevent COVID-19 spread
Parking restrictions, a festival ordinance, the Public Health Order and plenty of education are all in place to prevent college-aged students from gathering in large groups on Halloween.
And local law enforcement is doubling down to ensure large parties don’t occur.
Isla Vista has a history of going all out for Halloween, but with the dangers of spreading COVID-19 and the recent uptick in cases in the college town, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is prioritizing the area.
“We do have an operational plan in place ready to go,” Raquel Zick, the Sheriff’s Office public information officer, told the News-Press. “It’s scalable depending on what the turnout is for Isla Vista. If we see that there’s a large number of gatherings and a number of large parties, then we can start deploying more resources as appropriate.”
Ms. Zick said campus and local law enforcement has tried to shift Isla Vista from a hot spot for college-aged students to party to a locals-only celebration.
This year, they’re trying to even further localize the holiday by encouraging people to stay home for the weekend.
“There’s a lot of problems that come with inviting people from out of the area,” Ms. Zick said. “We see increases in property crimes and crimes against persons that come with that influx of out-of-town people.”
She said adding on the fact that people have been inside for a very long time is leading them to monitor the situation closely.
“It is a concern, but we’re hoping that people are smart and taking appropriate precautions, this year especially,” Ms. Zick said.
Anthony Wagner, the Santa Barbara Police Department public information officer, told the News-Press that officers don’t anticipate many issues in Santa Barbara.
“I think for the most part, the public has done a very good job, especially parents of school-aged children, to be cautious in this festivity of Halloween to not needlessly expose their child to COVID,” he said. “If you look at a lot of the large gatherings that were previously sponsored, those have been canceled, and there are no advertised Halloween festivities that I’m aware of.”
He added that the large gatherings are mainly in the college areas such as Isla Vista. He also noted the city’s campaign of asking residents to wear masks if they can’t socially distance themselves on State Street has been successful so far.
“Ultimately, we would want a message to get out to our constituency to heed the public health warnings of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department in that it’s probably not a safe endeavor to partake in the ritual of knocking on doors and retrieving candy,” Mr. Wagner said. “I also think that people are probably not going to be too fond of a whole bunch of people showing up at their door. There will be a lot of porch lights off this Halloween.
“You have a young population of trick-or-treaters, and the parents are already predisposed to listen to public health directives, which is evident in us maintaining the red zone,” he said, referring to the state’s COVID-19 tiers.
In a news release sent out on Wednesday, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reminded the community that gatherings outside of the household are not permitted.
In addition, Environmental Health Services will be sending teams out Saturday night to conduct assessments at restaurants and bars, and violations may result in enforcement action.