What the heck is going on in Eugene? Recently, there has been a string of armed robberies near campus, more harassment and more sexual assault reported within UOPD beats. Despite the numerous resources campus provides, students have come to terms with a very uncomfortable truth: It is no longer safe to travel around campus at night. What can we do to make ourselves safest at night? What is UOPD doing to make us safer? What else can be done?
Tips for students traveling at night
Safe Ride and the Designated Driver Shuttle are a resource provided by the University of Oregon and ASUO to give students a safe alternative to drunk driving and walking home at night. This is a great resource for students to have, but it’s not big enough for every student to be able to get a ride in a reasonable amount of time. For perspective, it’s not uncommon for Safe Ride to take an hour or two to get to your location. This isn’t necessarily an issue with Safe Ride. Rather, it concerns the large demand for rides.
UOPD can provide safety escorts, but again, it’s not a big enough resource for students to actually use in a timely manner. It also offers self-defense classes for women. UOPD is testing a pilot campus shuttle that makes runs to and from campus much like a bus, but this still leaves students as sitting ducks just as LTD does with its busses. A map of all shuttle stops, which also gives an approximated position of the shuttle, is available online.
Ultimately, the best advice is to never travel alone at night. This is, of course, an ideal situation and isn’t realistic for many students.
Having been previously licensed by the Oregon Department of Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) as unarmed security, there are a few tips that I can offer to students traveling at night.
Students who wish to carry pepper spray should consider buying a spray that includes an ultraviolet marking dye. This way, whenever UOPD or Eugene Police finds someone that fits the description you’ve given them, they can use an ultraviolet light to confirm that you sprayed them. Most sprays that I’ve seen cost around $10 or less. Just remember to never use it indoors. If you have a little higher of a budget, stun guns are allowed on campus. As always, a little common sense can go a long way with such devices.
Before you buy any personal protection devices, you should be aware of all legal liabilities and consequences that are associated with them. Read the weapons policy and consider taking a class in how to handle such devices. Students with additional questions surrounding personal protection devices are encouraged to call the UOPD non-emergency line at 541-346-2919. University policy and code of conduct questions should be directed toward the Office of the Dean of Students.
If carrying such a spray is not appealing to you, I suggest buying a powerful flashlight. I still have my large MagLite from my security job and have used it several times in poorly lit areas. This helps for two reasons: 1. You can actually see an attacker and identify them better for police. 2. A powerful flashlight can be used to temporarily blind an attacker. While a flashlight like I sometimes carry is suitable for self-defense, remember that your primary goal is to get home safely; don’t try to win a fight just because you think you can.
UO can only do so much
If we increase the amount of security or police officers around campus, we could expect to pay even more than we already do in tuition and fees. Allowing those with concealed weapons permits to carry such devices on campus would allow specific people to make their own investments in campus security if they don’t already possess a concealed weapons permit. Part of what prevents this from happening is a policy adopted by the Board of Trustees that was first implemented by the now disbanded Oregon University System. For those who do not wish to go that route, this is a good case in favor of rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft returning to Eugene.
UO wants people to know where the lighted paths are on campus: It offers a night option on its online map. Campus appears to be committed to fixing issues to the point that you can even drop a pin on the online map and tell the university about a lighting, hardscape, landscape or other issue that you may be encountering in a specific area of campus. Students should take advantage of this reporting system to let the university know what parts of campus need more of a security presence (choose to report an “Other” problem and explain what’s going on).
A suggestion I have for UO is to consider installing emergency call boxes in more areas that aren’t main campus. Spencer View Apartments — family housing for UO students — doesn’t have any. Barnhart Hall and Riley Hall also don’t have any emergency call boxes nearby. One might assert that we have many emergency call boxes, many of which aren’t used, but looking at the online map provided by the university (on night mode) raises some questions about the current call boxes. For example, why does UOPD have four call boxes around them while the northwestern side of campus has a noticeable hole where these call boxes seem to require a job to get to?
Eugene needs to get involved
Making students safer is more than a responsibility for the university; the City of Eugene needs to be involved in providing more street lights and safer bike lanes. Walk down Alder Street past E. 19th Avenue and you’ll find what looks like a large, unlit corridor. The same can be said for the many areas that students live at around east campus down Villard, Orchard, or even around E. 24th Avenue. For other examples, students don’t have to travel very far off campus. Next time you’re out with friends, take a look at how dark some of the sidewalks are in these areas.
The City of Eugene is currently having its own crisis with a lack of police officers. According to the Associated Press, Eugene Police ignored one-third of the daily service calls it received in 2017. Luckily, the Eugene City Council has opened the door to potentially allowing Uber and Lyft to return to Eugene.
Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis acknowledged that college students need a way to get back and forth at night and hopes to see the rideshare companies back in Eugene by summer. While it’s promising to see the city working to bring back ridesharing after a four-year absence, Mayor Vinis also said, “We want to make sure that we have a safe system, and so we don’t want to trade one unsafe situation for another.” University of Oregon Police Chief Matt Carmichael said that he has been working with the university to encourage the city to allow ridesharing.
Students shouldn’t be satisfied just yet
According to UOPD, there have been more than 70 incidents on or near campus property between 9 p.m. and 2:59 a.m. since Jan. 1, 2018. Of the incidents reported, 40 of them were quality of life incidents (drugs and alcohol, disorder, etc.), 29 of them were property incidents (theft, trespassing, etc.) and three of them were violent incidents.
Chief Carmichael issued a statement Friday saying, “UOPD is working with EPD, sharing information and planning, and I have directed our detectives to prioritize these cases.” He also stated that extra officers have been added to the patrol shifts at night. Chief Carmichael even posted his cell phone number for students with questions and suggestions.
If you are a victim of any crime, I urge you to report it to UOPD as soon as possible, so campus can at least have an accurate picture of which areas need more protection. While it’s nice to see our own police department taking action, students should put pressure on the city to do more, as our university is one of the largest employers in the county. Now is the time for us to take preventative measures and use any means necessary to make getting home safe.