Police and shop owners agree that Kesey Square, which sits in the heart of downtown Eugene, has seen a drop in crime since the arrival of a mobile security trailer last October.
Blending in with the food carts at Kesey Square, Eugene Police set up one of three trailer-mounted security cams, all of which can be accessed from an officer's computer or smartphone.
According to an EPD press release, the Guardian Trailers intend to deter crime “in areas where there have been complaints or issues, as well as locations determined through data collection.”
Police lieutenant Doug Mozan said that the cameras aren’t meant for live monitoring, but can be used by police to view footage of a crime after it's happened.
“We’ve looked at serious crimes such as sexual assaults,” Mozan said. “Even for the latest homicide investigation, we’ll be looking at surveillance footage to see if there’s any relevance to the crime.”
However, Mozan also says that the presence of the cameras isn’t meant to help retroactively, but to stop crimes before they happen.
"People don't know when we're looking and when we're not,” Mozan said. “So a lot of folks aren’t willing to engage in sketchy or anti-social behavior when they figure the camera is watching them. We've seen behavior change in those spaces, and I would consider that a success.”
As one of the four food carts that sit at Kesey Square permanently, Morelos Taqueria is no stranger to vandalism.
“Someone broke one of our windows last summer,” said co-owner Karina Sevilla. “People were stealing things and trying to break in. There were people sleeping under and behind the carts, which isn’t safe for anyone.”
Sevilla admits that she didn’t immediately love the idea of having 24-hour surveillance, but after the third or fourth instance of theft involving one of the neighboring food carts, she began to reconsider.
“If you’re just here to pass time, you might wonder why we need cameras,” Sevilla said. “But until you’re here all the time, you don't understand what we have to go through.”
According to EPD records, crime in the downtown area, including Kesey Square, has steadily increased since 2013. Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 2 percent increase in property crime.
“The cameras have been good for the businesses around here,” Sevilla said. “It’s much cleaner. People aren’t sleeping behind the food carts anymore.”
The mobility of the security trailers allows EPD to move the cameras to different locations based on need. The trailer that spends most of its time at Kesey Square has also been moved over two streets to monitor the park blocks next to the courthouse. Other locations that have seen the security trailers include 8th Avenue and Oak Street and Broadway and Olive Street.
Total cost for all three Guardian Trailers was $152,000, paid for by funding from the City of Eugene. According to Mozan, a fourth trailer is being made for the city’s parks department.