Public Safety in our Community
We deserve a robust public safety system in our community. We also need to establish forward looking partnerships that will withstand the political whims of our times. In my many years of involvement with the Police Commission – advising the Police Chief, the City Manager and the City Council on police matters, practices, community values and best practices – I have observed how an insufficient public safety level makes life challenging for residents of neighborhoods that are perceived as being unsafe. Attracting and developing businesses in such neighborhoods is also challenging. Finally, it can be very difficult to engage neighbors in envisioning a positive future for their community when they are worn down or disillusioned by crime control efforts that have failed in the past.
Given limited resources combined with the growing need to address our safety, the Police Department needs to consider partnering with local organizations to incorporate public safety into a comprehensive community development approach. This partnership’s primary focus is a reduction in crime. I believe this is a necessary precursor to revitalizing efforts. The result can be a healthier community with an enhanced quality of life.
However, we must be careful not to rely merely on police enforcement but also engage in building social capital and in economic development. As we build partnerships between the police, organizations, and the broader community we must be inclusive regarding varying perspectives of law enforcement early and often through the process. Only then can we achieve a deeper and ongoing mutual support rather than just a superficial exchange. Only then can we actually create safety proactively rather than just responding to crime afterward.
We can be a different community where crime is not a part of daily life; we can stand our ground in establishing the interconnected pieces of a comprehensive revitalization of our community and our expectations of public safety. In the end, I believe that integrating community safety initiatives will yield long lasting results. At my urging and with overwhelming support from the rest of the police commissioners, the Police Commission will have a State of the Public Safety Forum in the next few months to review findings from both law enforcement and the larger community. I look forward to my involvement with this forum.
Some Thoughts on the Downtown Public Safety Zone Ordinance
At one time, our downtown was the epicenter of regional activity, and a destination for business, leisure, and civic and cultural events. But as retail and transportation behavior changed, downtown became less vibrant. We have tried many things to reverse downtown’s decline: We had a mall, we closed streets, we opened streets, we lured businesses, we lost businesses. I am very excited that the past couple of years have shown significant positive developments downtown in both commercial and residential development.
As one component of a 12-point downtown public safety plan, we have a Downtown Public Safety Zone Exclusion Ordinance, which allows the City to exclude people from the downtown area for certain crimes, sometimes without a conviction. I don’t believe an ordinance like this should be permanent. Instead, I envision a downtown that is truly welcoming for all people. We need is to ensure the ordinance, even in its transition stage as recently adopted by the City Council, does not target marginalized and vulnerable people such as people without homes, who rely on public spaces for resting places, bathrooms, and safety.
I support the Council’s recent decision to establish a committee to develop a strategy to end the exclusion zone. As we find ways to transition out of the ordinance, we need a fundamental understanding of equity and fairness in how we treat each other. Each person wishing to be downtown has to have equal rights, and also to be cognizant that others have the same rights. We need to be open to all, including those wishing to empower families doing commerce, enabling economic development, those wanting to experience culture, those wanting to experience music and street and non-street art.
Ultimately, what will help downtown the most is more events and more people downtown. The Eugene 150 celebration, art walks, concerts and open houses are just some examples of what we need.