Marcus Baker was a bartender, living in the Whiteaker neighborhood, his place of work never left unnoticed by all of the drug addicts and alcoholics in the area. He found needles in and around his surroundings; illegal happenings in his town. However, Baker did not stop working there. Rather, he stayed, in a neighborhood he could call his own, regardless of the people that enveloped it.
For the people of the Whiteaker, it was the aspect of walking through their local town and sighting the forbidden needle. It was the look of a person, itching for their drug of choice, physically and mentally. It was the occasional nose bleed. It was the deep and discolored track marks on the person who walked by their store. Whiteaker’s GlassRoots store owner, Kristie Munro, says “Whiteaker is a vibrant community with a diverse and original population…, [but] this neighborhood has been here a long time, and there are a fair amount of drug users and homeless people.” James Fontenot, a resident of the Whiteaker area adds, “Whiteaker’s great… [but] one thing I would change is the drug addiction.”
Throughout the Whiteaker neighborhood, from the local’s perspectives, drugs are a prevalent problem. Crime Prevention Specialist Tod Schneider has been working in the Whiteaker for over 10 years. Schneider says, “We are still seeing plenty of heroin, other opiates, and meth comes and goes. But it’s not so much specific drugs as policies and issues as how to deal with people. These types of people are not going to stop using drugs because one category goes away.”
To many, the issue of drugs in the Whiteaker has developed to the point of no help. However, the Whiteaker locals and professionals refuse to give up. The Eugene Public Involvement Manager Terri Harding, along with others, holds neighborhood meetings, in order to discuss the issues of the Whiteaker and what the Whiteaker residents can do to prevent them.
Munro keeps flyers for these Neighborhood Associations in her store in order to spread the word of the need for help in the Whiteaker. She loves the community in which she works, thus her fight to keep it safe is unyielding. Munro, along with quite a few other residents and workers, says there have been a lot of background drug deals in the Whiteaker, meaning that drugs are everywhere; for example, in public places such as parks.
Whiteaker local Audra McCabe has a different opinion about the topic. She believes that the issue of the abuse of drugs isn’t as strong as others, like Munro and Schnieder, believe it to be. “I’ve seen one needle,” she says. In McCabe’s opinion, people speculate a drug problem in her neighborhood. She believes that the Whiteaker “is Eugene’s favorite scapegoat.”
Many people living in the Whiteaker agree with McCabe’s statement. However, though the Whiteaker harbors some drug deals, the population of homeless people plays into the problem of drug abuse as well.
In regards to this issue, Munro says, “The previous owner here tried to stick up for people (the homeless) being harassed.” Thus, Munro’s, and other local’s, opinions infer that drug abuse, more often than not, is related to the amount of homeless in this neighborhood. In other words, some Whiteaker locals believe that more drug use entails more homeless people, and vice versa.
Schneider says, “Due to the lack of capacity in the jail and mental health facilities more of those people (drug users) end up on the street where they are visibly offensive and scare people with their appearance.” He also says that the aspect of homelessness is specifically dissatisfying in regards to the development of parks.
Schneider says that though new aspects of the neighborhood parks and etc. are built in hopes of a great turnout for the area as a whole, street population generally takes over the new “amenities,” thus causing the families in the Whiteaker to stray away from the new improvements, as these parks are once again taken over by drug abusers.
Marcus Baker, a bartender at Tiny Tavern, comments on the issue: “I have seen and witnessed some drug abuse, some heroin and what not.” Baker says that the drugs are everywhere; he has found needles in and around the park and the parking lot of Tiny Tavern, helping to prove that point. Baker says that this park, officially named Scobert Gardens Park, is also referred to as Heroin Park “from all the druggies looking for their 15-minute high and all the junkies hanging out trying to score.”
Thus, in the opinions of some, Heroin Park is the place to be if one is in need of new track marks and a potential place to call home for a day or two, which leads to an unanswered question: does this Whiteaker problem seem to be getting worse as time passes?
Baker says, “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…”
Munro says that the Monroe Police Station will be closing down quite soon. This would make the Whiteaker neighborhood a little less patrolled than it already was. However, though this action has not taken full effect, what are the people involved at the police station doing to help with the issues of the Whiteaker?
Schneider says he and the Monroe Police Station have been trying their best to assist in the breakdown of these drug and homelessness issues. Schneider says, “The neighborhood comes forward and says if we just fixed up the park, it would be more attractive and we could regain the park. Then the scary population moves in and we [the police] seal off parts of the park. We start removing bushes and benches. Then the park looks so barren; no wonder people don’t come around. It’s a circle that’s been going on for decades.” And as Schnieder says this, the hypotheticals come into play. To some, this issue of abuse will go on for quite a long time.
Schneider says, “[The problems are] politically volatile with a lot of angst. We have those who are homeless because they have lost their jobs, those who are homeless because of mental illness, and those who are choosing to be nasty to others. They all get lumped together in an unreal picture of what we are really dealing with.” And that is the homelessness of potential drug users.
Schneider goes on to say that there is no single area, in specific, in the Whiteaker that is known for its issue in drug use and abuse. Apparently, the drug use “moves around, we follow it. Users scatter and settle somewhere else. It bounces around. There are chronic complaints around all the parks in Eugene.”
Dave Whitaker, a worker at the Buckley Center – a Detoxification and Sobering Center – says, “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 comes in contact with the people more than a few times, though he is unaware of where they have been or where these users are coming from. The detox center that Whitaker mentions is open 24-hours a day and, according to him, those people are the regulars that come in at night. “I see some heroin and a lot of them do marijuana. Not so much meth or opiate pills.”
In addition to these detox centers that Whitaker spends his working time, however, there are also multifarious amounts of ways to help relieve the issue in the Whiteaker, such as the new arcade in the Whiteaker that is open until about 4 in the morning.
But as the locals of the Whiteaker neighborhood, much like Marcus Baker, watch the issue of drugs persist, they can only wait to see what will happen next.
The Statistics Sidebar
Throughout the years, the Whiteaker neighborhood has become a drug infested area. Locals and workers, such as Kristie Munro, Marcus Baker, and Tod Schneider, all agree with this statement, as told by the “Drugs on Whiteaker” article. However, why has the overflow of drug abusers in the Whiteaker neighborhood occurred? Though the answers do vary a bit, one common and very likely assumption would be the age curve. Through countless hours of research, it has surfaced that the Whiteaker neighborhood residents and their ages differ. However, the most dominant ages of residents living in the Whiteaker are between 20 and 30 years of age. The graph below gives a very specific table that expresses the age differences in the Whiteaker. The information was found at: http://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/Whiteaker-Community-Eugene-OR.html
In regards to the middle-aged population, statistics show that more people within the ages of 20 and 30 are more susceptible to abusing drugs. In an article on Science Daily, it was reported that over 10 percent of adults become dependent on or abuse drugs in their lifetime. The article read, “Individuals who abused drugs began at an average age of 19.9, whereas those with drug dependence developed the condition at an average age of 21.7. About 8.1 percent of those who abused drugs and 37.9 percent of those who were dependent received treatment during their lives. ‘The adolescent onset of drug abuse and dependence revealed critical windows of opportunity for prevention efforts,’ the authors [of General Psychiatry] write.” Thus the issue on drugs deepens, as we figure the age groups of the could-be drug users.
Alcohol in the Whiteaker Sidebar
Now, it is obvious that there is an issue with drugs in the Whiteaker neighborhood, as told by Whiteaker locals. However, another unspoken issue is that the Whiteaker has also struggled in regards to the alcohol abuse in the area. In 2010, an alcohol ban was expressed and used at some Whiteaker grocery stores. An article from KVAL expresses the intensity of alcohol abuse in the Whiteaker neighborhood. In this article, it was announced that “[a] test ban last year appeared to show a decrease in crime in the area.” After interviewing the OLCC investigator Mark Jaehnig, KVAL printed his words: “’Prior to the October 2009 ban, we received numerous complaints by local businesses and residents in the area. During the ban those complaints dropped off to zero. We are glad everyone came to a quick initial solution that worked and that we were able to build upon. All the stores in the area are participating and distributors are also supporting this ban.’”
In another article on the Whiteaker by KVAL, they announced that there was a specific alcoholic beverage, known as liquid crack, that could be the reason for so much crime in the neighborhood. KVAL says it is “one of those malt liquor beverages sold in a 24 ounce can at local convenience shops.” In a news release on May 25, 2010, the Eugene Police Department announced the ban and Officer Terry Fitzpatrick spoke about it in detail: “This program is the result of Eugene Police and OLCC listening to the concerns of the neighborhood and coming up with solutions[…] It was also the result of very responsive stores, whose management understood the seriousness of the situation and acted in the community’s best interest. We very much appreciate their commitment to making this area safer for everyone.”
After the first “trial voluntary” ban, it was noted that the crime rate had decreased, thus resulting in the lesser crime rate due to alcohol. KVAL reported that “[a]n assessment of the ban showed crime dropped 70 percent in the affected area during the time the program was in place.”
In result of this, many stores agreed to a voluntary ban that was to begin in June of 2010. This voluntary ban helped to cover most fortified alcoholic beverages. The six stores that have agreed to follow this voluntary ban include: 1) Neighborhood Market (1st and Jefferson), 2) 7-Eleven (7th and Jefferson), 3) Red Apple, 4) Dari-Mart (1st and Monroe), 5) Quick Stop (1st and Van Buren), and 6) 7-Eleven (6th and Blair).
Because this alcohol ban seemed to be working out pretty well in regards to lowering the crime rate, could something like this be in store for Whiteaker locals in regards to the drug abuse issue that has taken over their neighborhood? Marcus Baker, a Tiny Tavern employee, says, “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…” Though many are not aware of some of the tasks used to help with the Whiteaker’s issues, one can only hope for the best for their local home.
By: Petra Chung
For a PDF version of this story, please download here — Drugs in the Whiteaker