EUGENE, Ore. — With less than a month before his annual report to the city, Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns talks about the state of crime in Eugene, and his thoughts on the handling of the University of Oregon men’s basketball rape investigation.
“The neighborhood with the most chronic property crime problem is the West University neighborhood,” Kerns said. “Students don’t seem to be as careful about locking doors and windows. And better than 80 percent of the burglaries in Eugene occur when the suspect goes through an unlocked door or window.”
Kerns has already identified some of the key talking points for the last fiscal year. Outside the West University area, he says property crime is spread more or less evenly throughout the city, with perhaps slightly lower numbers in southeast and northeast Eugene.
Meanwhile, street crimes, such as drug use, trespassing, shoplifting, etc., happen mostly in the midtown of downtown Eugene, along with its core.
“Which is typical in most communities, that’s not unusual to Eugene, and it’s also why we’ve put so many resources down there,” Kerns said.
As for violent crime, Kerns says it’s been low in Eugene for many years, and there was no change last year, with a few exceptions.
“There has also been a marginal but steady increase since 2008 in assaults, low-level assaults, and it looks like that might be related to domestic violence,” Kerns said.
He’s also seen a small increase in the number of rapes, which he says could be good news because it means more women feel safe coming forward.
On that subject, we asked Kerns what his thoughts were on the handling of the UO men’s basketball case by all agencies involved. He praised his detective who worked the case and defended the department’s request that the university not inform the players about the investigation.
“The university refrained from making the kind of contacts, having the kind of conversations with them that would have made those conversations with the detective very difficult,” Kerns said.
But was it safe for other students to have the alleged suspects walk around campus for weeks unsupervised?
“It’s true that that’s a tough balance to strike, but it happens all the time in sexual assault cases. It’s a choice we have to make over and over,” Kerns said.
Kerns also said he was caught off guard by the controversy drawn by the department’s no refusal blood test on the Fourth of July. Even so, he says the operation was a complete success.
The chief’s report is expected to be released within the next 30 days.