Churchill Residents Reveal History of Gang Violence

Residents of the Churchill neighborhood spoke to J361 students from the University of Oregon Sunday afternoon about their positive views of the neighborhood, as well as their take on the violence that occurs between rival gangs and high schools.

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Beautiful day in the Churchill neighborhood.

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Local gang graffiti can be found along any bike path.

At first glance, the Churchill neighborhood is peaceful, clean and full of families out and about. An outsider would never suspect that only one year ago, around Halloween, shots were fired in the parking lot of the Churchill Village apartments; or that fights break out after every sports game between rivals Willamette High School and Churchill High School. Even the traffic systems along Bailey Hill Road have been changed due to a deadly car accident involving a ten-year-old boy. Upon interviewing residents and people who have personal connections to the Churchill community, any outsider would have never expected that such gang related violence and tragedies occur in this quaint neighborhood.

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Jason Crane

Local carpenter, Jason Crane, is helping out a friend and owner by working part-time at the DS Market and Deli. According to Crane, who has interned with the Oregon State Police Department and is a third degree black belt, the market has been broken into roughly four to five times, making it unsafe for any of the female employees to work night shifts. When questioned about the amount of violence and vandalism he has witnessed in the Churchill neighborhood, he revealed that the area is home to the South Side Playboys and the West Side Pirus. These rival gangs “want a community that’s theirs,” said Crane. After helping a couple customers at the cash register, the conversation switched gears completely. Despite the neighborhood’s gang and drug related problems, there are also many qualities that agree with outsiders’ first impressions. Crane expressed pride in the fact that the schools have great sports programs, Churchill High School especially, due to continued funding. He also explained that the fire station has “safety zones.” Much like the blue lights that can be found around the University of Oregon campus, anyone can push the button in any circumstance and receive help within a couple of minutes. Ending on a high note, Crane returned to his waiting customers with a smile.

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John the White Trash Guy

Across the street, between the Churchill High School and middle school is the Churchill Community Garden. Working his plot in the garden during his spare time is a man known as John the White Trash Guy. John has lived in Churchill for three years and has already experienced his fair share of tragic events. When asked about the positives of the neighborhood, he revealed that one of the best changes in the area was the result of an unfortunate death. The traffic systems along Bailey Hill Road were created after a driver going roughly 60 miles per hour hit and killed a ten-year-old boy who was walking to the community garden to water his plants. Like in many other situations, John believes that things must fail before we can prosper.

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Madian Hernandez (left) Rosy Hernandez (right)

Located next to the Churchill Community Garden is the play structure and park where 20-year-old Rosy Hernandez and 16-year-old Madian Hernandez were babysitting. Every Sunday they visit the park in the Churchill neighborhood because it’s quiet and peaceful, the complete opposite of what it’s like during the school week, according to Rosy. Her younger brother, who’s a junior at Churchill High School has relayed many stories to Rosy, explaining the dangers that surround him during school hours, especially when there’s a sports game against Willamette High School. Madian and Rosy both agree that the neighborhood would be a much safer and happier place, like it is on the weekends, if the South Side Playboys and the West Side Pirus weren’t there.

About Nicole Daniel

Student at the University of Oregon majoring in Journalism and minoring in Multimedia.
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