Community volunteers help make Halloween a little safer

Ivar Vong

Correction appended

On Halloween night, it’s not rare to see costumed students wandering the streets surrounding college campuses. But the men and women in the white “Community Watch” ponchos decorated with pink hearts and bright smiley faces weren’t wearing costumes.

Because of Eugene’s history of Halloween riots, including two in the late 1990s and one near-riot in 2006, some residents in the campus area were worried about the possibility of another outbreak. Last year, Carol Berg-Caldwell, a Eugene resident and organizer of the “Community Watch” program, wanted to make sure the police had help on what she knew would be a busy night.

While making her rounds, Berg-Caldwell noticed intoxicated partygoers stumbling into the streets unknowingly, creating a potentially grave scenario.

“When I was watching the police, I couldn’t help but notice how many students would wander into the streets on accident,” Berg-Caldwell said. “I remember asking myself aloud, ‘Is anyone looking out for these people?'”

Berg-Caldwell came back this year with a new inspirational drive: she wanted to be out there not just to help the police, but to protect the safety of students. Dressed in her white poncho, she took to the streets with five other “watchers” and helped as much as she could. The group traveled in pairs of monitors and traffic holders.

Although the six were surrounded by illegal activities, they did not interfere with police work.

“Throughout the night we noticed a lot of things that the police would have cited or arrested students for,” Berg-Caldwell said. “But that isn’t why we’re out there. That’s not our goal — we don’t want to become the bad guys.”

Randy Prince, co-chairman of the Amazon Neighborhood Association and participant in the community watch program, felt that after the success of last year’s police watch, the group could focus more on the safety of the students rather than just the actions of the Eugene Police Department.

“We felt like (police) did a great job in key areas,” Prince said. “They were understaffed because of the football game and were still able to maintain control without using force.”

The only place that Prince found a problem was in the Amazon neighborhood, which covers Hilyard Street to Agate Street from East 24th Avenue to East 30th Avenue.

“I got a lot of complaints from residents,” Prince said. “It seems like Eugene police didn’t staff that area higher because it’s a ‘mixed neighborhood’ with both student and family residents.”

However, Prince said he was confident that police “will cover more area when there isn’t a big football game on the same day.”

Berg-Caldwell expressed hope that more community volunteers would contribute to the cause next year.

“With any organization that promotes safety on a huge party night, having other volunteers would help so much in being able to spread out and go down a couple more blocks,” Berg-Caldwell said. “We’re trying to get the University involved to maybe put up caution signs next year blocking off busier streets and saying ‘partying ahead: drive cautious’ or something of that general idea. There is so much that can be done at a small price for saving a life.”

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The name of the community watch organizer featured in an article in Wednesday’s Emerald (“Community volunteers help made Halloween a little safer,” ODE, Nov. 4) is Carol Berg-Caldwell. Because of a reporter’s error, the article did not accurately report her name. The Emerald regrets the error.

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