An analysis of court records by Eugene Weekly found that more than one of every four people ticketed or arrested for minor crimes in Eugene last year were homeless or lacked a permanent address.
The findings, made by student journalists at the University of Oregon, show that Eugene police disproportionately arrest people living on the streets—raising questions about whether Oregon's second-largest city has effectively criminalized homelessness.
They found that of the 1,800 people who were cited or charged by Eugene police in 2016 for non-traffic violation, at least 25 percent lacked a permanent address at some point in 2016.
Overall, homeless people make up approximately 2 percent of the population of Eugene, yet they were defendants in more than 35 percent of 2016 court cases.
Eugene Weekly's analysis found that 71 percent of the charges against the homeless came from a short list of crimes — criminal trespassing, drinking illegally, third-degree theft, prohibited camping and disorderly conduct.
The story is worth reading in full. It fits into a pattern of Oregon officials admitting they don't track the numbers of what population groups law enforcement agencies arrest.
Here's the crux of the report:
City officials and the Eugene Police Department acknowledge they have not studied how often the city’s homeless face charges, court judgments and even jail time. “What would be the purpose of that?” EPD Chief Pete Kerns says. “I don’t need to know the numbers. We know that enforcement alone isn’t going to improve safety because the conditions that lead to homelessness aren’t going to be addressed through enforcement alone.” Yet police and city officials continue to make policy decisions about dealing with the homeless and safety issues downtown without knowing how often the police bring charges against people who lack a permanent address.