Loitering youth cause problems for downtown area.
By Kendall Fields
EUGENE, Ore.—A young boy with curly blond hair and baby cheeks races down the sidewalk by the Lane Transit District’s bus station on his red Razor scooter. As he nears the corner of 10th and Olive, a teenage boy, whose face is hidden beneath the hood of a black sweatshirt, yells, “Hey kid, nice scooter. Wanna come look at some pictures in this magazine?” The young boy lets his feet drag, slowly gets off his scooter and with his head hung low walks over to the hooded teen, who is sitting down amid several other teens dressed in scraggly black clothes.
Twenty feet away a blonde teenage girl in another sea of youth chases after a boy, shrieking, “Get back here. I’m gonna kill you.”An older woman clutches a brand new Mac laptop as she tries to get around the girl and the crowd of about twenty teenagers behind her.
This scene is all too typical of the downtown area. Large groups of youth loitering on the sidewalks near the bus station and the library are causing problems for local businesses and deterring people from coming to the area.
“You look down 10th and you can’t see anything but kids,” said Rick Rhoades.
Rhoades, who has been a security guard for the Eugene Public Library since August 2009, spends 90 percent of his time outside enforcing the rules the library implemented on March 12th of this year.
The new rules ban smoking, skateboarding and bicycling on the sidewalk in front of the library. The library has also started playing smooth jazz music to provide a more inviting environment to visitors.
Rhoades said that these rules have pushed the youth over to the LTD bus station.
Guadalupe Melendrez, an employee of Burrito Boy for the past six years, is always aware of the teenagers. She feels that the youth deter customers from coming into Burrito Boy because they are intimidated by the large number of teens and their rowdiness.
“When we ask them to leave they can get mouthy,” Melendrez said.
She explains how sometimes when she and her coworkers come to work in the morning there is urine and vomit in front of their building. Melendrez said that problems seem to be more prevalent in the summer months when the weather is hot and the teens have been drinking.
Melendrez calls the red caps, private security officers employed by Downtown Eugene, Inc., when problems escalate.
The restaurant’s landlord will be installing a gate to prevent future incidents.
Tom Keating, who works at the Eugene Research Institute across the street, also feels that the youth are a problem.
“I see that there is a lot of inconsideration,” Keating said. “Nobody steps aside when you are trying to get by.”
Keating’s office overlooks 10th Avenue, so he frequently hears the teenagers yelling profanities, making it difficult for him to concentrate at work. He sees the teens smoking and throwing cigarette butts all over the ground and then spitting.
Keating understands why people are reluctant to come to the area because of the loitering youth. “When I have my little kids here with me, they catch a weird vibe. They feel uncomfortable,” he said.
Rhoades speculates that LTD will create rules like library’s to reduce the number of youth loitering on its sidewalks.
But where will all of the youth go?
“Some of them choose to be homeless probably because they have problems at home or they don’t want to follow their parents’ rules,” Rhoades said. “But we all have rules.”
Rhoades suggests creating a community center of some sort in the pit on 10th and Charnelton to give the teens a place to hang out.
“If we gave them a place that was their own and they were in charge of the building, it would give them a chance to show their responsibility.”