EUGENE, Ore. - Eugene residents have a chance Monday night to sound off on a controversial law put in effect for downtown that is aimed at making the area a safer place. City Council is holding a town hall meeting Monday night over the Downtown Eugene exclusion zone that is up for renewal in October.
The law allows police to ban people accused, but not convicted, of certain crimes from the downtown core area for 90 days.
Supporters argue the downtown exclusion zone law has made the area much safer than before. Opponents claim the law is a violation of due process of law.
The Eugene Police Department said that the exclusion law is set up as a stop gap measure aimed at the bad guys.
"We don't have any jail beds. We know that. We're hurtin'," says Lt. Sam Kamkar of EPD. A stop gap needed they say--because so much of the Lane County Jail is closed.
"What the exclusion program allows us to do is to provide that--that tiny bit of a hammer." Lt. Kamkar told KVAL News.
It's a hammer that most merchants say is doing the job.
A Kesey Square food cart merchant who only wants to be identified as "Todd" said, "The very few of the folks in town here who really cause a lot of trouble, is what that exclusion zone applies for."
Supporter and downtown restaurant owner Tom Kamis says opponents are wrong to say homeless people are being targeted.
"I will say that the majority of the people that we have problems with are the transients that come through Eugene, not the homeless." Kamis added.
No one really knows how this debate is going to turn out. The city council reported being in a 4-4 split, possibly putting Downtown Eugene in a new crossroads.
We met Mariah Gaut at Broadway and Willamette, who explained her boyfriend is excluded for one year under the law (post-conviction).
"I think it had great intentions when it was made. I think it's being used for the wrong purposes now." said Gaut.
The police chief proposes the city pay for attorneys to represent defendants at their exclusion hearings--but city councilman George Brown says it's not enough.
"We can't, for the sake of commerce, give up our civil liberties and that important element of our criminal justice system," explains Brown.
His main bone of contention is the 90 day pre-conviction exclusion clause. That has to go, he said, before he'll change his mind.
October 8Th is the date set for the council to make its decision.