A group of high school students hang out at the downtown Eugene Station on Monday.
On a drizzly Monday afternoon, throngs of bus riders, homeless people and huddled groups of teenagers pace around the downtown Eugene public transit station. The bus station has become one of the neighborhood’s most popular hangouts, especially for teenagers who are not in school.
Ever though security guards patrol the bus station 24 hours a day, some say it has become a hub for drug dealers and a spot notorious for violence.
Lynda Tucker, who is employed by the security company Wackenhut, patrols Eugene Station from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every week day. Tucker says there is an ongoing problem with teenagers and children who loiter at the station.
“I’ve seen transients down here as young as 10,” says Tucker.
Tucker says that the problem stems from a number of alternative high school in Eugene that only keep teens in class for four hours a day.
“That leaves another four or five hours open before they go home,” she says. “Some of those kids make the station generally uncomfortable for other bus riders.”
Tucker says drugs and violence are other issues she deals with at Eugene Station.
Fifteen feet away is a group of eight teenagers. Some puff on cigarettes, one has dyed pink hair and a few others tug on sagging black jeans covered with patches.
“For example,” says Tucker with a nod toward the group, “I guarantee that at least four of those people have marijuana on them. I guarantee it.”
Huddled on the other side of the transit station are North Eugene High School students Phil, 17, and Autumn, 16, both of whom opted to give false names because they didn’t want to get in trouble for not being in school on a Monday afternoon.
Phil, who hangs out at the transit station on a regular basis, says the constant flow of drugs, not the violence, is the biggest problem.
“There is a lot of week that comes through here, mostly controlled by gangs,” he says, referring to the easy accessibility of marijuana.
Autumn, Phil’s girlfriend, says the station is increasingly being used as a meeting place for drug dealers and their customers.
“You can get a lot of Ecstasy down here,” says Autumn. “This is also one of the top places to get meth.”
Phil and Autumn say the number of teenagers who hang out at the station attract drug dealers who view the area as a place to make easy money.
“If you get weed down here, it’s probably going to be laced with coke or Ecstasy,” says Phil.
Back at the other end of the station, Tucker directs a homeless man in need of medical help. Blood trickles down his left cheek. The man was sleeping on the sidewalk and woke up to someone kicking him in the face.
Tucker shakes her head and surveys the three small clusters of teenagers who have gathered since she turned around.
She says the loitering teens around Eugene Station can generally fit into two groups.
“Half these kids just don’t want to play by the rules,” she says, waving at a few teenage boys furiously puffing at cigarette butts.
“The other half of the kids have a home life which is much worse than the family they’ve made on the street,” she says with a shrug.
“Working down here is a challenge, but at the same time, I really enjoy it.”