As Santa Barbara, Ca., recovers from a weekend of violent encounters between police and spring-break partygoers, local law enforcement cites social media as one of the major causes for the melee, says the Christian Science Monitor. Twitter and Facebook chatter helped draw more than 15,000 people to the small Isla Vista neighborhood adjacent to the University of California Santa Barbara campus for the neighborhood's annual spring break celebration. Fires were set, police were attacked, and more than 100 were arrested.
“Social media helped push this event from somewhere around eight-to-ten thousand people up to 15-to-20 thousand,” says Kelly Hoover, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara Sheriff Department. While the event began decades ago as a spring break beach party, the revelers have been banned from the waterfront since 2009 and limited to parties at individual residences. “There is so much electronic chattering now that social media has expanded the eyes and ears of the police,” says Tod Burke, professor of criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia. When officers monitor social media, he says, they are looking for clues about what is happening in the community. And now, he points out, “everyone has a camera, so not only can they hear about what is going on, but they can see it as well.”