Nestled on the corner of 13th Avenue and Alder Street rests a powder-blue building. A small sign on the front of the building says it was at one point Eugene Police Department property — yet the building lies dormant. But University of Oregon Police Chief Matthew Carmichael said, starting winter term, UOPD is turning the building into a “community substation” — a second branch for the department.
“It’s going to put us right in the heart of where our students are,” Carmichael said.
The main UOPD station is located on E. 15th Avenue and Walnut Street, well removed from the west campus area where many students live. Carmichael acknowledged the location of the main UOPD station is difficult to reach for many students and hopes the new substation will empower students to seek out police assistance when they otherwise would not.
Carmichael said that while UOPD made a deal with EPD last July to take control of the building, EPD will still have access to it. And because the old EPD sign is still mounted on the front of the building, he said he routinely encounters people approaching the building seeking out police assistance.
He said he has hosted several meetings at the substation already and multiple times people have walked in, thinking it was a police station.
“I’ll leave the door unlocked,” Carmichael said, “and every time I’ve been there, a student walks in. The other night, I was there and a student walked in and handed me a debit card they found on the ground.”
While the finer details of the deal are still being worked out, he said UOPD officers and student employees will operate the substation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. He added that an emergency phone and camera will be mounted on the wall outside of the building in case someone needs assistance after hours.
Carmichael also said he wants to redo the interior of the space to make students feel comfortable when they walk in. The renovation will include, among other things, artwork, bean bag chairs, a television and a video game system. Students could also use the conference room at the substation to set up meetings with UOPD or with other student organizations, Carmichael said.
Along with the new substation, UOPD is enacting a new “Vacation Watch” program. Carmichael said any UO student can register their Eugene-Springfield area residence with UOPD prior to leaving the area for an academic break. While the student is out of town, a combination of student employees, community service officers or police officers will check the residence daily during their routine patrols. Carmichael said UOPD will check if the residence’s doors and windows are secure, and will report to the student if they observe anything out of the ordinary.
“At times, our students can be the victim of theft when they’re gone on vacation,” he said. “People that do us harm — they know our student calendar.”
EPD has a similar program but only inspects two or three times a week, according to its website. The volunteers are instructed to notify the police department should anything suspicious arise.
Students can sign up for the UOPD program for free either online or at the main UOPD station at 2141 E. 15th Ave.
“We can kind of be that liaison to students who have gone back home for the winter break or gone on vacation for winter break,” he said. “We’re here for them.”
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