Downtown Eugene may not be as safe as some people think
-By Tyson Johnson
Eugene, OR – Is Eugene as safe as we think? A recent study and report by magazine Eugene Weekly ranked the city “203rd in violent crime rate when matched up with 265 U.S. cities with over 100,000 people.
Though Eugene streets are certainly safer that those in St. Louis, Detroit and Atlanta, according to an online press report by Morgan Quitno Press, Eugene continues to be not included as one of America’s safest cities.
“[Eugene’s] downtown is just as safe as any other downtown in the country”, says Walter Hunt, a business owner who is employed at a downtown juice bar. “But it’s like a garden with weeds; you just can’t let it go.”
Hunt, owner of New Odyssey Juice Bar located in downtown Eugene, claims that the city is improving on the safety of its streets and believes that the newly recruited security staff is cleaning up the streets. After Lane County officials closed down its timber industry and city jail, Hunt and 131 protesters rallied in the streets of downtown Eugene.
In response, the city’s council board did something that surprised everyone: they listened.
For a city known well for its anarchist riots and student protestors, Eugene City Council constructed a plan in 2004 that would foresee a future cleanup of the city’s streets. In the span of 16 months, over 8,400 arrests were made by hired security personnel and six police bicycle patrols. Over 80 percent of these arrests involved assault and battery crimes and trespassing.
“People are attracted to our downtown all over the world,” said Hunt, who claims to have served tourists from Germany, Australia, and France. “Other cities actually model their [own] cities after our downtown. Places like Santa Cruz, CA and Boulder, CO do,” he added.
“We are used to [crime],” said Lucas Jeffery Pierce, an employee at St. Vincent de Paul thrift store located near Eugene’s central bus station. “We sometimes get people who rip off clothes from the mannequins outside.”
Pierce claims to have seen only two bicycle cops during his eight month employment at the retail thrift store and believes that extra security is needed to help improve the safety of Eugene’s streets. While Pierce likes working in the downtown area, he continues to live in north Eugene because he believes it is safer.
Shiloh Glaspell, an employee at Emerald City Skates located in downtown Eugene, said that she notices the presence of extra street police but believes they are not effective. The homeless, vagrants and teenagers are among the many persons who cause trouble in downtown Eugene.
“People will set up shop right outside our store,” said Glaspell, who currently resides in Springfield, OR. “I’d like to see more presence by streets cops [and] it would help if they were around more.