EPD initiates task force aimed at downtown

In response to recent crimes that have occurred in the downtown Eugene area, Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns is initiating a task force to develop solutions to the serious issues of problem behavior and crime in the area.

The announcement came the day after police reported a homeless man had been set on fire in the area. Police have since identified the victim as James Patrick Kaiser.

Detective Tony Veach, who is investigating the assault on Kaiser, said the 43-year-old victim “is doing as well as can be expected” and “will get along just fine” physically.

The city’s new task force will seek to prevent incidents like the assault on Kaiser, which happened near East Broadway and High Street. It will consist of representatives from the police department and Planning and Development Department, as well as representatives from local businesses, community members, and various City department and division leaders.

In a statement, Kerns said that “to make a difference in downtown the task force will be going beyond what has been done to gain effective and sustainable solutions.”

The group will work “on an accelerated deadline” to “discuss the breadth of possible solutions,” according to a police press release.

“We are looking at more than just one problem and therefore the answers must be comprehensive,” Kerns said.

The task force’s main goal is to develop creative solutions to several “complex and interwoven issues” including regional public safety deficits, redevelopment and business development, runaways and truant juveniles, and usage of public infrastructure and sidewalks, parking and other programs.

Decreasing the crime rate in the downtown area has been a focus of the EPD for nearly 40 years, Kerns said. Previous actions include establishing foot patrols in the area, enacting a downtown public safety zone and exclusion ordinance, and increasing the amount of officers assigned to the downtown area.    

“It is time to move forward and come up with new answers given the current regional public safety and downtown environment,” Kerns said.

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