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Crime, Law & Justice

EPD Chief Skinner: Policing During Pandemic Brings New Problems, Challenges

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Brian Bull
/
KLCC

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, including how police do their jobs. KLCC’s Brian Bull recently talked about that with Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner.  Bull began by asking if the EPD had seen an uptick of racist acts against Asian-Americans, given that some people blame the pandemic on the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus.

Skinner:  We’ve been really, really fortunate, we have not seen an uptick in any kind of racial bias crimes against our Asian-Americans. There’s been maybe an incident or two that has involved some graffiti.  But we’ve not seen a noticeable uptick in those types of bias crimes specifically to this COVID virus.  You know, some of our nation’s leaders that want to identify it as the “Chinese virus” and “out of Wuhan”, we’ve not seen an impact here. And I think it’s a testament to this community, and how tolerant and inclusive this community is, and I just really appreciate that.

Bull: When you mention the graffiti, Chief Skinner, what kind of graffiti are you talking about?

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Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Chris Skinner, EPD Chief

Skinner: We saw a huge uptick in graffiti quite honestly the minute school was canceled. Most of the graffiti we’re seeing isn’t anything that's anchored specifically to a particular group like a gang affiliation or gang communication, which is what we call "tagging", back and forth. But what some of the graffiti feels like, is the outcome of a lot of idle hands right now. Some of our surveillance is showing this to be juvenile type crime, more than usual, I’m seeing some hate graffiti around different ethnic groups, not specifically our Asian-Americans, but other ethnic groups to include our Jewish community.  In this community, people know that there’s certain things that they say with those words, get a response, and unfortunately they go down that path with those hateful words.

Bull:  Are we seeing any increase in any certain types of crimes that we wouldn’t normally see during a pandemic?  I saw a release that mentioned mailbox thefts were up, due to the arrival of stimulus checks….

Skinner:  Anytime that we know we’ve got money coming in the mail  we’re always going to be concerned about mail theft. And when we have situations where people are in lockdown, and feeling like they’re isolated and at home, you have a tendency to see an increase in your disturbances and family violence go up for people that have been together more than they ever, ever have before, and don’t have great coping mechanisms. And so we see a little bit of an increase in our disturbance calls.  But one thing that we haven’t seen that really concerns me the most though Brian, is our child abuse and sexual abuse calls have almost dropped off the radar screen.  And it scares me to think about those children that are not in school that are in homes that are maybe abusive to begin with, and they don’t have access to those mandatory reporters. That I think there’s a real strong possibility that we have abuse going on in our community that we don’t know about, and that just hurts our heart to think about that.

Bull:  And I guess that would put the emphasis on neighbors, friends, and even delivery people to keep their eyes and ears open to any abuse that might be going on inside a household.

Skinner:  And that’s part of how we take care of each other as a community, is that we have to be involved and say something when we see something that just doesn’t seem right. But without those kids in school where we have teachers and counselors that see them every single day, and start noticing when a child starts acting differently, or struggling….without that we miss an opportunity to be able to intervene on behalf of that child, and that’s really hard for us right now.

I would just really want to thank this community for understanding that things look and feel different, understanding that they are just giving us a tremendous amount of grace with regards to how quickly we can get to those calls for service.  As you know the community safety initiative is designed to help remedy that, but we won’t be in that space for a little bit of time, before we can start thinking about doing something differently and collecting those taxes.

And I would that say it looks and feels differently around a lot of our homeless population that are sheltering in place and camping. We’ve had a lot of grace extended to those people to just kinda shelter and stay put for a little while. But just know that we’re trying to pay attention to the health and safety issues around some of our camps that we see, trying to meet the needs of not only our unhoused people but our community members that are calling in and writing in, and struggling with some of the behavior that they have. So we just ask them for continued patience. That we’ll be in this and come out of this together, but we will get to a better place when these restrictions lift.

Bull: Chief Skinner, I appreciate your time and may you and your force remain safe during this pandemic.

Skinner:  Thanks Brian, I really appreciate the conversation.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

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