Whiteaker Midterm

Drug Problem In The Whiteaker

Local Residents and Businesses Discuss Important Social Issues In Their Neighborhood

By Paul Kiefer

On Monday, October 31st, 2011 in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene, local residents, employees, and business owners of the area were interviewed on what they thought was the most important social issue in the neighborhood.

Of all the social issues in the Whiteaker, the drug problem emerged as the most prevalent. Many of the people interviewed commented on it, and had seen or experienced the drug problem in one way or another.

According to Marcus Baker, a bartender at Tiny’s Tavern, there is a small community park across from the tavern that has become known as “Heroin Park.” Baker has witnessed some drug abuse, such as heroin, and has found needles in and around the tavern’s parking lot and the park across the street.

“All of Eugene has drugs but this area is the worst. Probably because it’s least patrolled and has the most people out and about on foot and the [Eugene] Mission is right down the street.”

Further down the road, a local business owner commented on the issue too.

Kristie Munro claimed that there has been a lot drug deals in the area. Also, the previous owners of her business, which she wished to keep anonymous, had apparently left because they kept getting robbed, and had their store window smashed in on multiple occasions.

An employee of the Red Barn Natural grocery store, Shelly Jang, noticed a drug problem and added that everyone “seems to know who the individuals (drug users) are.”

While there seemed to be an emerging consensus, one resident believed the drug problem has become exaggerated.

Audra McCabe used to live in the Whiteaker and had recently moved back. Since her return, she has seen only one needle. She claimed that the Whiteaker has no more of a drug problem than any of the other Eugene neighborhoods.

“The [Whiteaker] is Eugene’s favorite scapegoat,” McCabe added.

Crime Prevention Specialist Tod Schneider of the EPD Monroe Street Substation weighed in on the issue and seemed to agree with McCabe. He noted that the Whiteaker is not any more affected by drugs than any other neighborhood, and that drugs seem to move around and are a chronic complaint all over Eugene.

He did notice, however, that the community parks are most affected by the drug problem.

“Every time we build nice amenities they’re a magnet for the street population. They take over.”

The Whiteaker has established several resources to assist with drug addicts and help fight the drug problem. One of the most popular resources is a 24-hour detox clinic known as the Buckley Center.

An employee at the Buckley Center, Dave Whitaker, commented on his experiences with the drug addicts. He has seen some heroin use and a lot of marijuana, but very little meth or opiate pills.

“We have a sobering service. It is a 6-hour sleep-off. A number of people come in on a regular basis, several times a week,” Whitaker said.

While people were divided on whether or not there was a noticeable drug problem, there did seem to be a strong sense of community, which is beneficial to the community as a whole. It is important to keep an eye on the drug problem, but it became evident that the Whiteaker has so much more to offer than just heroin.

“It’s culturally rich, has beautiful old trees, and lots of great architecture. The influx of locally owned businesses have made it thrive,” said Schneider.

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