Community Crime Stays Steady and Public Transportation Suffers—But All Is Not Lost in Downtown Eugene
Downtown Eugene Struggles Through the Recession and Deals with Unwanted Disruptions While Maintaining Its Artistic Allure
By Whitney Mountain
Downtown Eugene implemented an Exclusion Zone on Oct. 24, 2008, as a way of dealing with deviant persons flooding the streets of one of Eugene’s most popular neighborhoods.
Since then, the community has yet to see an improvement in the number of disruptive people downtown.
“It didn’t help the problem,” said Cheese Monger Johnny Crunk, at The Kiva grocery store on the corner of Olive and West 11th. “There’s tons of bums harassing us, asking for cigarettes.”
According to Crunk, the presence of transient people dissuades others from going downtown.
“People don’t want to hang out down here,” he said. “That’s why businesses don’t want to move downtown.”
Monroe Street Station Manager Lupe Thompson of the Eugene Police Department says that the problem is multi-faceted.
“When you are trying to use police policy to solve a problem, you have to pinpoint the problem,” she said. “And the problem downtown is so widespread.”
But all of the people downtown do not seem to be bothered by the presence of homeless and disenfranchised individuals.
“It doesn’t affect people who are members here,” said Claire Christiansen, a receptionist at the Downtown Athletic Club. “I don’t think people don’t come to the gym because of the issue.”
However, Christiansen says that the club and its members are affected by break-in-related crimes in the club’s parking garage.
“But you’re going to have break-ins everywhere you go,” she said. “It’s no different than any other parking garage, but it would be nice if downtown were nicer, like Oakway.”
If people are interested in going to the Oakway Center, however, they may want to prepare for some public transportation dilemmas.
Because of budget cuts, the Lane Transit District has to cut some of the bus routes around Eugene. For riders like Cinammon Hollins, this may pose a threat for her and her daughter.
“I’m sure if they’re doing any cuts, it will affect us bus riders,” she said. “The prices will probably go up because I just moved back here, and I know they’ve gone up since I left.”
After returning from Salem, Hollins has developed an admiration for Eugene’s public transportation system.
“Eugene’s bus system is much better than Salem’s,” she said. “Theirs sucks, and that’s the state capital.”
But Hollins has concerns about the transient people downtown.
“I don’t think they should let people on the bus who’ve been drinking,” said Hollins, who takes her 9-year-old daughter on the bus daily. “Kids will see that, and it is a bad influence.”
Although cuts are inevitable during this recessed economy, the transit department is developing an extension of the Gateway EmX system, which will help expand Eugene residents’ accessibility to Springfield and other areas of Eugene.
Despite the gloom that hovers during economic strife, some downtown dwellers find solace in the artistic atmosphere of downtown Eugene.
“I am always appreciative to hear the music, even if it’s car stereos,” said Liam Burke, a downtown street musician. “It brings the mood up.”
Downtown Eugene has various street performers and music stores, such as House of Records on East 13th, that provide people with anything from live music to records and CDs.
“The people who are used to performing downtown are used to the rules and guidelines and know what they’re supposed to do and where they’re supposed to do it,” said Thompson.
For Burke’s musical comrade, Zeb Weld, Eugene has always been an irresistible place.
“Downtown has been my strongest pull in Eugene,” said Weld. “You can always talk to people.”
To connect with people who share a vested interest Eugene’s Downtown neighborhood, visit the Downtown Neighborhood Association’s Web site at http://www.eugenedna.org/.