Eugene Police announce dedicated volunteer unit for downtown
While the Eugene Police Department has had a volunteer program since 1999, a new group has been designated specifically for the downtown core.
13 people currently form the Downtown Support Team. Dressed in bright yellow jackets, the volunteers will start off on Tuesdays and Thursdays, working in pairs to help keep things safe and clean across Eugene.
One of them is 70-year-old Larry See. He’s lived in the city for 20 years.
“It’s not the same way it was when I moved here, and I think it’s important that we kinda recapture downtown,” See told KLCC. “People should feel comfortable to come down here and have dinner, go to a movie, and that’s what we’re trying to do to help.”
EPD Chief Chris Skinner told reporters volunteers are always appreciated, but more so given recent staffing shortages.
“Currently, we're down 21, 22 police officers,” said Skinner. “We have probably that many that are in training that aren't providing the kind of one-to-one value -as of yet- in and around the city.”
Skinner says while trained in de-escalation, this un-armed volunteer unit will not supplant CAHOOTS in behavioral health crises, nor will they tackle crime. The volunteers are also trained in first aid, CPR, and radio communications.
Lindy Smith manages the Volunteers in Policing (VIP) Program. She says there are 13 people in this unit, though the EPD uses more than 70 volunteers across Eugene.
“We have a subpoena service team that serves subpoenas to victims and witnesses. We’ve got a squad car maintenance team that keeps up with our patrol vehicles, and they’re on shift Monday through Friday. We’ve got our Seniors on Patrol Team, operating throughout the city but they’re in vehicles or they’re on bikes on the bike path. They’re not in the core of downtown, walking.”
Coordinators say since starting in 1999, volunteer work for the EPD has saved the City of Eugene nearly $11 million.