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Downtown crime: Police Chief responds

Downtown crime: Police Chief responds

On Saturday, police say a Eugene man was set on fire during an assault in the downtown/university area.

Today, EPD sent out this response:

To respond to recent crimes that have occurred in the downtown area, as well as a sustained level of problem behavior and crime, Chief Pete Kerns is announcing the convening of a task force - on an accelerated deadline - to work on solutions along with the Eugene Police Department and the Planning and Development Department.

"While these are challenging issues, I have every confidence that Eugene's new chief will be spearheading a proactive and motivated group that will take a fresh look at the current issues and come back with come up with options and potential directions for our community to move toward," said City Manager Jon Ruiz.

According to Chief Kerns, "To make a difference in downtown, the Task Force will be going beyond what has been done to gain effective and sustainable solutions. We are looking at more than just one problem and therefore the answers must be comprehensive. This is not a new situation. Over the course of almost 40 years, remedies have been tried. It is time to move forward and come up with new answers given the current regional public safety and downtown environment. The team will be both extremely practical and creative."

The Task Force will include representation by downtown and other local businesses, community members, and various City department and division leaders. The group will discuss the breadth of possible solutions, with a focus on being creative and inclusive of the complex and interwoven issues involved: regional public safety deficits, redevelopment and business development, addressing issues of runaways and truant juveniles as well as usage of public infrastructure and sidewalks, parking, and other programs.

Work on downtown issues began in 1974, when the Eugene Police Department initiated foot patrols of the area. In May 1977, the City Council proposed various ordinances and police enforcement measures to address problems on the mall (loitering youth, fights, drugs, minor theft, prostitution, and vandalism). In 1989 funding for a summer experiment in community policing was approved by the City Council. The team of five officers focused on the "inner-city" area of Eugene. The team worked closely with community service organizations when dealing with alcohol, drug, domestic and juvenile cases.

Two years ago, the City enacted a downtown public safety zone and exclusion ordinance. This summer, three times more officers were assigned to the downtown area.