Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Art of Penalizing Isla Vista Parties

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors are, at the moment, being urged to expand an existing Santa Barbara County Code ordinance which already makes most any party in Isla Vista a public nuisance. You can view the proposed changes at: http://bos-agenda.sbcgov.net/attachments/8489.pdf The expansions are being pushed through quickly - and quietly - and just in time for this year's Halloween festivities. According to the existing public nuisance ordinance, any collection of three or more of some 20 state and local law violations in any one gathering constitutes a public nuisance misdemeanor. Being added to that list are the offenses of public nudity, unlawful fires, urinating in public, and furnishing alcohol to a minor. Under this proposal, a single act of furnishing alcohol to a minor at a gathering renders the gathering a public nuisance. Under existing law, "rough body contact", "slamming" and launching one's self from a stage are single acts which give a police officr a basis to declare a gathering a public nuisance and thereby subject anyone lingering around after the order of disbursement to a citation and a fine; if not more severe penalties should their conduct rise to what the police would consider resisting, obstructing, or delaying a police officer in the discharge of his duties. All of the changes will be considered, and most likely made law in their entirety just in time for Halloween; 30 days forward from the date of enactment. While the proposed amendments have been, reportedly, vetted through a working group that consists of affected County Departments (District Attorney, Sheriff’s Department, Public Works, Counsel, County Executive Office and Third District), other agencies (City of Goleta, Santa Barbara City College) and representatives from the University of California Santa Barbara, it is noteworthy that neither Isla Vista residents, nor the affected student populations have been asked to join the discussion. Arguably, First Amendment rights to peaceable assembly, free speech, freedom are being further eroded by these proposed changes. Are the Isla Vista Foot Patrol really in need of more potent tools to bust up and criminalize the party-goers? Each year they arrest roughly 1,000 people over the Halloween period. The only good news for party-goers and throwers is that Isla Vista "outdoor festivals" (largely affecting outdoor bands) are to be de-criminalized under this proposal, but are still going to be subject to civil assessments (fines). Tuesday, August 28, 2007, is your opportunity to let the Board know how you feel about this new raft of laws affecting your freedom...but you'll have to drive to Santa Maria to be heard. See the Board's 8/28/2007 Meeting Agenda for further information.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Crime Down over Fiesta (except for a shooting)

Apart from the officer-involved shooting, Fiesta 2007 was absent any other major crime problems, according to a police report. Here are tentative results of police activity through late Saturday, including a comparison to Fiesta 2006:

  • 21 felony arrests; a 34% decrease
  • 97 misdemeanor arrests; a 4% increase
  • 274 criminal citations; a 6% decrease
  • 282 traffic citations; a 53% increase
  • 18 DUI arrests; a 20% increase
PS: If you are included in the numbers above… go see Bill _______________________________________________________________________


Every so often the media, on a slow news day no doubt, will read the temperature of the "crime problem". What does it mean? Am I safer or less safe? Am I more or less likely to be arrested? Is humankind becoming more unruly? Most likely, none of the above. More people means more crime. So, we keep hiring more cops. More cops means more arrests. As long as the hiring of cops out-paces the population growth, the busier I will be.

If crime is not actually on the rise (beyond the modest increases one expects as the population grows), more conduct is deemed criminal and cops become more "sensitive" to criminal conduct. For example, it used to be "drunk driving", now it is "driving under the influence" (read: however slight). It used to be "drunk and disorderly conduct", now it is "public intoxication". What does that mean? Well, one cop (still out there) told me "it depends....could be as little as .01". Yes, consuming a third of a beer, according to this cop, is possibly a forfeiture of your freedom and a one-way ticket to the drunk tank. Think about that the next time you are trying to decide between an import or a domestic...

Friday, August 3, 2007

More Sounding Off...

Jeramy Gordon of the Daily Sound decided to print as many of the 144 would-be secret photos as he could in today's issue. Gordon said his motive in printing the photographs is two fold, to prove to the public that there is nothing worth hiding, and to avoid fines that could potentially bankrupt the small paper. http://blogabarbara.blogspot.com/ Nothing worth hiding?! Uh, what was he fighting for, originally, if there is nothing worth hiding? If I'm not mistaken, he reprinted, very prominently, a photo of the accused teenager sitting under arrest in hand-cuffs (which is what he believed motivated Karen Atkins, Esq., to "attack" him in the first place) near the top of his rant about the First Amendment. Nevermind that parading a teenager in the public square in an inculpatory light is an affront to the presumption of privacy owing to minors accused of crime and an unnecessary taint of the jury pool. No, this is about getting even with Ms. Atkins and her client (and, less direclty, the Court). Is Mr. Gordon Santa Barbara's mini-McCaw?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Daily Sound Publisher's Folly

When thinking of the First Amendment I think about the little guy standing up to the "man" (e.g., the Government). Specifically, I think about the right of a little guy to take an unpopular public stand in the face of potential punishment or prior restraint. I don't readily think about a newspaper photographer's right to keep his or her unpublished photos private when doing so serves no important purpose or interest. This is why it is so hard for me to appreciate why the Daily Sound publisher, Jeramy Gordon, is putting up such a fuss about the fact that Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins, of the Santa Barbara Public Defender's Office, wants to view photos which are material, and potentially very useful, in defense of her client who stands accused of homicide.

“The reason I’m standing my ground on this,” Sound publisher Gordon said, “is because I believe reporters and photographers are neutral observers protected by the First Amendment, they are not supposed to be an arm of the police, the District Attorney, or the Public Defender.” http://www.independent.com/news/2007/aug/02/emdaily-soundem-ordered-surrender-photos/

What important interest is Gordon really trying to protect here? And whatever the real or imagined interest, could that interest be more powerful than the right of the "little guy" to defend himself against the Government? While Ms. Atkins delivers herself as a powerful member of Government, in reality she is rather powerless in as much she is a mere advocate for an indigent teenager charged with murder. It is absurd for Mr. Gordon to be styling himself the victim of an overbearing Government when it is a teenager accused of murder - and not the Government - who is putting a demand on him. The only victim possible, it seems to me, would be the accused, if indeed the Santa Barbara Superior Court were to have followed along any further with this irritating assertion of First Amendment privilege by Gordon. The Court made the right call.

No Anti-Gang Injunctions in Santa Barbara - Ever

Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez stated, emphatically, to Martha Sadler of the Independent that he will not support an injunction against Gangs in Santa Barbara as long as he is chief of police. http://www.independent.com/news/2007/aug/02/police-chief-cam-sanchez-explains-laws-view-gangs/ This is a departure from the standard no-holds-barred all out "war on crime" approach to the complex problem of street-gangs. I applaud Chief Sanchez for, apparently, taking civil liberties into account in his analysis; especially when, as he points out, injunctions are ineffective.