This year’s Fiesta celebration went off with few hitches, which is just the way law enforcement likes it.
“This Fiesta had fewer large problems than the last several recent Fiestas,” said police Lt. Paul McCaffrey, a department spokesman.
He credits much of the success to the preplanning and prior year analysis that goes into making decisions.
To make things work smoothly, all hands are on deck within the department, both officers and civilian personnel.
“Days off, holidays, vacations are all canceled during Fiesta,” said McCaffrey. “The courts don’t say ‘Oh, well, it’s Fiesta’ and give us extra time to get the reports done.”
Also lending a hand were officers from other agencies, including the Sheriff’s Department; Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula and Ventura police departments; Santa Barbara County Probation; and the California Youth Authority. While having additional officers on the streets helps, the reinforcements also brought special knowledge of known gang members from their areas.
“The incidents we did have were largely gang-related problems,” McCaffrey said. “Having officers from other agencies that are knowledgeable of who the gang members are, who might have a warrant, the terms of probation. Some people are not allowed out of their county, out at night, (or to) associate with gang members, some are prohibited from consuming alcohol.”
Being able to quickly take action on some of these minor types of violations allowed police to “send a message of what we will and will not tolerate here in Santa Barbara,” McCaffrey said.
“… Especially a gang of 20-25 people, take one or two people out of group for something relatively minor, we’re sending a message. That philosophy did a lot to prevent problems,” he added.
Another big part of police effectiveness was increased communication and mobility. McCaffrey said another radio frequency was added and there were extra officers on bicycles, motorcycles and on foot on State Street, where most of the action took place.
“Gangs aren’t hanging out at the Noches de Ronda,” said McCaffrey, who added that they like the see-and-be-seen atmosphere of State Street.
“A big part of the gang mentality and lifestyle is to defend your gang and look for other gangs.”
Authorities estimate there were 524 arrests during Fiesta vs. more than 650 last year. McCaffrey said the department will have a “great big Fiesta debriefing” in the near future.