Springfield: 'Crime rate plummets and the standard of living goes up'

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Crime in the heart of downtown Springfield appears to be on the decline.

"It's been amazing. It is like night and day," said downtown business owner Karen Hageman.

In 2009, the 300 to 500 blocks of Main Street were the scene of 119 reported crimes, 41 of them felonies.

In 2012, the same stretch of downtown was only connected to 21 reported crimes - and only 2 felonies.

Sgt. John Umenhofer said police have a theory about what is going on:

  1. Voters in Springfield passed a tax to build and operate a local jail, meaning crimes that would get you booked and released from the Lane County Jail in Eugene come with actual time behind bars in Springfield.
  2. Police adopted tactics to target street crime downtown.
  3. A gradual influx of new businesses are attracting the "right crowd" to downtown Springfield.

"This went from a very high crime rate area that was not family friendly at all to literally a family friendly location with new business," Umenhofer said.

Umenhofer said that to clean up this stretch of downtown, Springfield Police borrowed a page from Mayor Giuliani and New York City: They went after the people committing street crimes.

"A very small number of the population commit the vast majority of crimes. When you can hold them responsible and have an effective jail that can hold them responsible, the crime rate plummets and the standard of living goes up," says Umenhofer.

Bart Caridio has had his Planktown Brewing Company open for 5 weeks and says so far "all I see is really nice people coming in here, you know, a lot of people from the Washburne District are walking down or biking down."

Other business owners said watch for more improvements on Main Street. "We're going to be increasing our street lighting and street level lighting on Main, which is a goal of the mayor and city council," said Hageman, who operates Haven.

Sgt. Umenhofer said police bike patrols will resume next month, and they'll concentrate on downtown to keep a lid on any problems.