Downtown Eugene Danger Dealt With
Downtown Eugene addressed residents concerns of safety.
Towards the end of January, thanks to the work of city council and local businesses, a downtown police substation was opened up to help with public concerns of safety in the area. The police department’s new location is part of the new Lane Community College building that recently opened across from the Eugene Public Library. It means a consistent police presence in the area, which has been successful so far.
Two years ago city council approved a measure that implemented the downtown police team, which is paid for by the businesses in the area. The measure was approved because of an increasing danger in the downtown neighborhood.
Currently, the bicycle patrol is made up of nine officers and one supervising officer, according to Eugene Police Sgt. Larry Crompton. Crompton said that 10 officers are assigned to the downtown substation, but only about three or four are scheduled for a day.
“People are saying ‘Well you have 10 officers down here now it should be a lot safer’” Crompton said. “But with scheduling and (other responsibilities) there are only an average of two bike officers a day.”
Furthermore, downtown patrons often complain when they have been cited with a violation of traffic laws or other small violations and, according to Crompton, they often express that the police should be focusing more on the groups that do not exude safety.
New Odyssey Juice Bar owner, Walt Hunt, who said that he has heard people complaining about the bicycle officers “picking on people.” Hunt said that he has never personally seen police targeting happen, but he has heard the complaints from numerous downtown regulars. Although, he said, “It has hugely improved, and it has been all positive so far.”
This point is well-known by Crompton who said a lawsuit is a possibility if the downtown station is thought to be targeting the homeless community. “We have to treat everyone fairly under the 14th Amendment, otherwise we get sued,” Crompton said.
The problem that the downtown police team must face is that of aggressive pan handling in the area. With the opinions of the public being shared so willingly, Crompton said he is constantly reminding people, people who do not believe they should be cited for anything small when there are bigger issues to take care of downtown, of the 14th Amendment.
The response from the community has largely been positive and very supportive according to Crompton. Crompton said, “The liberal perspective is that the presence is enough to discourage activity, and others say that after awhile, you have to enforce the laws as well. Everyone has their opinions.”