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 2022, the Major Cities Chiefs Association issued a report noting that violent crime remains high across big cities in the U.S. and Canada. 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. Portland’s dedication to transparency and accountability is one of the reasons why crime may seem higher in the city, because the City of Portland openly reports and discusses issues.

Portland, like other major cities, has witnessed a decline in the number of sworn officers due to retirement and resignations during the pandemic. Increasing the police force is a primary objective for city and law enforcement leaders. On Sept. 22, 2022, the Portland Police Bureau hired an additional 20 community police officers and followed up a week later with an announcement of bringing four fully trained officers on board. The additional 20 officers must undergo an 18-month training program before joining 87 other officers currently enrolled.

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 the 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. Office workers are returning to downtown, and foot traffic has been on the rise. The community has also come together at various central-city events, including shopping at Portland Saturday Market, rediscovering culinary gems at the Portland Night Market, and celebrating endurance at the Portland Marathon. Other downtown attractions, including the year-round Portland Farmers Market at PSU, Oregon Historical Society and Portland Art Museum, are open and welcoming visitors.

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. Multnomah County leaders announced an “all hands on deck” approach to fighting gun violence, including new hires, investments and collaborations with community partnerships and health partners to reduce violence and hold offenders accountable. On Jan. 19, 2022, the Portland Police Bureau’s new Focused Intervention Team (FIT) launched to “deescalate and lower tensions in the community that is feeding the contagious gun violence crisis.” This voluntary task force completed 65 hours of specialized training and comprises 12 officers and two sergeants.

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?

Demonstrations are infrequent today and are mainly isolated, organized events involving small groups of people with permits from the authorities. Portland has a long history of protecting citizens’ rights to free speech and assembly, and most protest participants participate peacefully. Any demonstrations today typically do not require police intervention, nor do they disrupt life around the city. They should no longer be a concern for visitors.

What COVID-19 restrictions are in place in Portland?

The state of Oregon has lifted COVID restrictions statewide, including its mask mandate in most indoor settings and on public transportation, such as buses, streetcars and MAX light rail, and in the airport. Healthcare settings still require masking for anyone five and older regardless of vaccination status, and masks remain highly recommended for those considered at high risk. Businesses have the discretion to set their own masking and vaccination policies, so it’s best to call ahead for details.

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