Residents, business owners speak up about safety on Eugene streets

A total of 47 attendees gave public comment at the city council meeting.

Posted: Nov 12, 2019 11:46 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2019 9:29 AM

EUGENE, Ore.-- Local business owners and concerned residents filled the chairs of a Eugene City Council meeting Tuesday to speak out about concerns regarding crime downtown.

'Eugene Wake Up,' an organization of business owners impacted by theft, violence and other crimes, rallied their supporters to speak before the council, meeting up beforehand and walking to the meeting as a group.

Organizer Stephen Sheehan, owner of Elk Horn Brewery, the goal was to get the city council's attention and create awareness of the safety concerns downtown. He said the group is taking special care to differentiate homeless people from criminals.

"It's not about homelessness. It's about lawlessness. It's about coming together as a community," he said.

A total of 47 attendees gave public comment at the meeting. While some shared stories of crime while representing Eugene Wake Up, others expressed concerns that the group might go too far and blame homeless people.

The council addressed the group and their concerns when public comment concluded. 

"I think that's the basis on which we can work together. Not just homeless advocates but those who recognize criminal behavior, because we do have that in common," said Ward 8 representative Chris Pryor.

According to Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis, city initiatives like an emergency shelter, increasing affordable housing, and an increased police presence funded by the payroll tax are all intended to address safety concerns as well as the welfare of homeless people. However, those projects could take months to years to implement and people are looking for a solution now.

Vinis said she intends to work with Eugene Wake Up to address their concerns.

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