EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Eugene City Council is once again weight the future of the city's “Downtown Public Safety Zone,” the rule that allows police officers to ban people convicted of crimes from entering the downtown core for up to one year.
Eugene Police met with City Council in a work session on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012, to talk about what's happened in the “safety zone” over the last seven months of 2012. Many people know the safety zone as the “exclusion zone,” the name it carried at its inception four years ago.
Councilors are now trying to decide whether or not to extend it. Right now, the zone is set to expire at the end of November 2012. The zone is bordered by 7th Avenue on the north, 11th Avenue to the south, Lincoln and Lawrence Streets to the west, and Pearl Street to the east.
According to Eugene Police, 39 people have received exclusion “notices” since January 2012.
Of those 39 people, 34 cases have outcomes, 5 remain in progress.
17 people have been excluded for 90 days. Five people have received one year exclusions.
Of the remaining cases, five cases were withdrawn or never filed by EPD and seven were dismissed.
Eugene Police answered questions about complaints on Wednesday that exclusion notices are a form of “social profiling.” Meanwhile, police say the zone is an effort to target behavior and remains there to protect the public, particularly vulnerable youth.
"It isn't because they're homeless that they have interaction with police, it's because of the way that they behave. And our focus in our downtown efforts is on behavior, it's not on status. Status becomes a factor for obvious reasons but our enforcement efforts and our efforts to make downtown safer has everything to do with behavior,” Chief Pete Kerns said to city councilors on Wednesday.
“It seems to be as times progress, one of the only ways we can protect these encourable youth,” said Sgt. Larry Crompton of the Eugene Police Department.
Councilors haven't voted or made any moves to extend the ordinance.
Many are split, saying they agree with addressing behavior, but aren't sure if the exclusion ordinance should continue in the long term.
The ordinance is once piece of a larger Downtown Public Safety Plan. Part of that plan included increasing the amount of police officers in downtown.
“I think just the site of a police officer walking down the street or walking over by a group that's misbehaving in the park, I think that alone is just outstanding,” said Councilor George Brown.
"I'm hearing more people that are now starting to go downtown for the first time in years because they have heard from their friends how its changing downtown,” said George Poling, a Eugene city councilor.
Both Councilors Poling and Mike Clark came out in support of extending the Downtown Public Safety Zone on Wednesday. Councilors have not set a next step though for the future of the zone.
One of the changes the city made to the Downtown Public Safety Zone in the last few years of operation was the addition of an “advocate” position, which was designed to work with anyone who wanted to fight their exclusion.
So far, not a single person has used the advocate, even though everyone who is served with an exclusion now also gets a card with the advocates contact information.