Last week when we were conducting our initial interviews in Downtown Eugene, Nick and I spoke with Walt Hunt. Hunt is the owner of New Odyssey Juice Bar, which is located at 1004 Willamette St. He brought up the issue of gang violence, noting that up until several years ago, Downtown Eugene had a problem with gang members because there was not enough of a police presence.
This observation by Hunt sparked the interest of Nick and I, and we decided to look into the issue of public safety in Downtown Eugene. On Monday April 15, Nick and I drove back into the neighborhood during late morning to get a general sense of what people thought about the issue of safety in the neighborhood. Our goal was to get the general public’s point of view concerning safety in Downtown Eugene, and to learn about what is being done to make the neighborhood a safe environment.
In general, men found Downtown Eugene to be adequately safe, while women tended to show a bit more concern. One exception came from a 24 year old woman named Sarah Dosch. Dosch moved to Eugene from the Midwest, and works as a bartender at Doc’s Pad, a restaurant and sports lounge in the neighborhood. She told Nick and I that she does not feel unsafe Downtown, and that she has never experienced any violence at her place of work.
In talking with others who work Downtown, Nick and I learned about the Red Hats, men who patrol small radii—about 10 blocks—to take care of loiterers who give trouble to local businesses. They are not part of the police force, but appear to be a major component to public safety Downtown. A middle-aged bank teller at US Bank named Maureen (last name not given)told Nick and I that she feels safer knowing that they are around. Though the bank only has to call them about four times per year, she feels they have been effective in keeping loiterers and troublesome people at bay. She thinks Downtown Eugene is more unsafe than other parts of the city, but reported no major incidents at her place of work.
Like Maureen, 33 year old Josh Marks feels like Downtown has a strong presence of people patrolling for safety. Unlike Maureen, Marks feels that Downtown is a completely safe part of Eugene. We found Marks in the lobby of Lane Community College, and he noted that he saw two bike cops on his short walk to the campus. He does not think there needs to be an increase in the police force Downtown.