Safety in Portland: Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that visitors have questions about what’s going on in Portland; we have answers.

Portland — like many cities — is navigating a host of complex issues, from the COVID-19 pandemic to police reform to social justice. Amid it all, Portland is a safe place to visit. Read on for detailed answers surrounding safety and the visitor experience.

Is It Safe in Portland? Answers to Your Questions

Is Portland, Oregon, safe to visit?

Yes, Portland remains a safe city for visitors. Visitors to Portland should use the same caution as when traveling to any metropolitan destination. Like many cities nationwide, Portland has experienced an increase in crime during the past year. Data from the Portland Police Bureau show that the majority of crimes occur outside of areas where visitors stay and frequent. In February 2021, the Major Cities Chiefs Association issued a report noting that 63 of 66 major cities saw at least one violent crime category grow in 2020. Among cities of comparable size, Portland generally experiences violent crime at somewhat lower rates. The city’s leaders are exploring and implementing solutions that are consistent with the community’s need for equity, respect, transparency and accountability.

What’s it like in downtown Portland right now? Is downtown Portland safe?

Downtown Portland and its surrounding neighborhoods are open. Visitors are advised to plan ahead and check hours of operation for any establishments on their itineraries. As is the case in all major cities, downtown is traditionally a major hub of activity, which slowed due to the pandemic. Consumer activity downtown is picking up, as capacity restrictions have eased, and it should continue to rise. Community involvement has also stepped up, with volunteers gathering downtown and area neighborhoods for regular cleanups organized through SOLVE.

The community has also come together in person at various central-city events, including shopping at Portland Saturday Market, cheering on the Timbers at the MLS Cup, and rediscovering culinary gems at Portland Night Market. Other downtown attractions, including the year-round Portland Farmers Market at PSU, Oregon Historical Society and Portland Art Museum, are open and welcoming visitors. The Portland Winter Light Festival returned for its seventh year, Portland Center Stage is performing its new season live, and thousands of basketball fans recently gathered for first-round men’s NCAA tournament games at the Moda Center.

Is violence on the rise in Portland? How dangerous is Portland?

For comparison, Portland’s current violent crime rate remains below the average for violent crime in large U.S. cities. That said, statistics show that gun violence in Portland has experienced an uptrend, mirroring similar trends in cities nationwide. In December 2020, Mayor Ted Wheeler, Police Chief Chuck Lovell and Office of Violence Prevention Director Nike Greene announced first steps in a new plan to decrease shootings and homicides, including assigning more detectives to investigations, as well as more outreach and hospital-based trauma responders. In September 2021, Multnomah County leaders came together to announce an “all hands on deck” approach to fighting gun violence; the county’s plan encompasses new hires, investments and collaborations with community partnerships and health partners to reduce violence and hold offenders accountable.

Gun violence is unpredictable, and incidents have occurred in various areas around the city, as indicated in the Portland Police Bureau’s dashboard. However, the majority of incidents tend to occur in neighborhoods in the outer North and East sections of Portland. These areas have faced greater economic and social hardship historically and because of the pandemic. The city and the Portland Police Bureau are focusing resources on these areas and forging stronger community partnerships to improve the current climate, with an emphasis on providing necessary resources for future improvements as well. In addition, partnerships are developing across city, county, state, federal, community and nonprofit entities to explore and implement viable, sustainable solutions citywide.

How is Portland addressing police reform?

The Portland City Council is reviewing policing changes that include reallocating funding from specific police programs identified as perpetuating a negative impact on some communities, including communities of color, and increasing transparency.

The council may redirect funds from specific police programs to initiatives that provide resources to underserved populations. As an example, in June 2020, the Portland City Council approved a budget diverting $15 million from the police bureau to social services. Nearly $5 million from the police bureau was redirected to Portland Street Response, a program that dispatches unarmed first responders to calls for people experiencing homelessness. The program has expanded twice and, as of March 28, 2022, provides citywide coverage from 8 a.m.–10 p.m., with plans to provide round-the-clock service by October 2022.

Additionally, in January 2022, the Portland Police Bureau launched its Focused Intervention Team (FIT), which zeroes in on gun violence and is supported by a community oversight group to ensure transparency and accountability. Going forward, additional efforts to enhance the city’s public safety measures and accountability include a $2.65 million investment in body-worn cameras for police officers and enlisting the expertise of an independent consultant to review police procedures on crowd control.

What is the status of protests in Portland?

The large-scale protests seen in the summer of 2020 have ended. Demonstrations occur infrequently today and are mainly isolated events involving small groups of people. Portland has a long history of protecting citizens’ rights to free speech and assembly, and the vast majority of protest participants take part peacefully. Some individuals, however, use the opportunity to behave unlawfully. The Multnomah County District Attorney focuses resources on actively prosecuting individuals who cause personal harm and real property damage, and the office provides a clear view of policy and a dashboard of case activity.

What COVID-19 restrictions are in place in Portland?

Oregon has lifted many COVID restrictions, including its mask mandate in most indoor settings, on public transportation, such as buses, streetcars and MAX light rail, and in the airport. Masks are encouraged indoors where community transmission reaches high levels, which currently applies to Multnomah County. Health care settings still require masking for anyone five and older regardless of vaccination status, and masks remain highly recommended for those considered at high risk.

Additionally, many restaurants and bars are requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining. Best practice is to call ahead to check an establishment’s policies.

For more details, please visit Travel Portland’s COVID-19 Info & Resources pages.

What’s Open In Portland?

Most Portland attractions are open and operating with COVID safety precautions.

More Resources

Demonstrations in Portland

While the vast majority of demonstrations are peaceful, Travel Portland urges visitors to exercise caution and avoid areas where demonstrations are planned.

Homelessness in Portland

Homelessness is a real and visible problem in Portland. Learn about the causes, responses and how you can help.

Portland Public Safety Resources

Our round-up of Portland public safety resources will help you stay informed and safe in case of snow, ice, or other incidents.