We understand that visitors have questions about what’s going on in Portland; we have answers.
Portland — like many cities — is currently confronting issues related to social justice, livability and the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid it all, Portland is a safe place to visit. Read on for detailed answers surrounding safety, protests and 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. Portland is a safe city. Visitors to Portland should exercise the same caution as when traveling to any metropolitan destination. Data from the Portland Police Bureau shows that the majority of crimes occur outside of areas where visitors stay and frequent. Like many cities nationwide, Portland has experienced an increase in crime during the past year. 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. For a city of its size, Portland has comparatively low rates of violent crime, and its leaders are exploring and implementing solutions that are consistent with the community’s need for equity, respect, transparency and accountability.
What is the status of protests in Portland?
Portland has a long history of protecting citizens’ rights to free speech and assembly. In 2020, the death of George Floyd spurred more than 100 continuous days of protests, with most participants acting peacefully. Some individuals used the opportunity to behave unlawfully, and the city experienced some rioting. Demonstrations are occurring infrequently today, and though some do result in destructive behavior, civil unrest is not comparable to what was seen in 2020. The Multnomah County District Attorney is focusing resources on actively prosecuting individuals causing personal harm and real property damage, and the office provides a clear view of policy and a dashboard of case activity.
What’s it like in downtown Portland right now? Is downtown Portland safe?
Downtown Portland and its surrounding neighborhoods are open. As is the case in all major cities, downtown is traditionally a major hub of activity. As many companies instituted remote work policies due to the pandemic, consumer traffic in Portland’s core slowed and prompted some smaller businesses to reduce their hours of operation. Visitors are advised to plan ahead and check hours of operation for any establishments on their itineraries.
We anticipate that as new COVID cases trend downward, vaccinations increase and additional restrictions are lifted, workers will gradually return to offices and businesses will increase their hours of operation. Consumer activity downtown is already picking up, as capacity restrictions have eased, and it should continue to rise.
Beyond protests, 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 the city dealing with the rise in houselessness?
Houselessness is a national issue that is impacting Portland and many other cities. A shortage of shelter availability has resulted in this segment of the population living in tents in various neighborhoods. Portland is committed to humanely caring for its homeless population and has shifted increased resources towards mental health treatment and housing solutions. Currently the city is in the process of moving homeless camps to equipped outdoor shelter villages. The City of Portland and Multnomah County recently pledged to commit $1 billion over the next 10 years to housing solutions and basic services that meet people experiencing homelessness where they are. Additionally, on Nov. 1, 2021, the city and county announced a joint agreement to invest $38 million in homeless services. The funds would support new shelter beds, outreach workers, behavioral health teams, storage and hygiene units, and camp cleanups.
Please read Travel Portland’s Homelessness in Portland page for additional information about this issue, as well as more details on proactive measures to address homelessness in the city.
How is Portland working to keep the city clean?
Portland has plenty of boots on the ground to beautify the city. SOLVE Oregon conducts cleanups statewide and follows a regular schedule for maintaining downtown and Lloyd (Oregon Convention Center) areas. The city recently renewed its five-year contract with the longstanding Downtown Clean & Safe Ambassador Program, which works daily to clean Portland streets, help visitors and provide individuals with safety and social services assistance. Also, a proposed investment of $38 million in homeless services, by the city of Portland and Multnomah County, would allocate funds for enhanced cleanups in the area.
How is Portland addressing police reform?
The Portland City Council is reviewing policing changes that include reallocations of funding from specific police programs identified as perpetuating a negative impact on some communities, including communities of color. The council may redirect funds from these 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 new program to dispatch unarmed first responders to answer calls for people experiencing homelessness.
Additionally, as of January 2021, Mayor Ted Wheeler — with support from the rest of the city council — has stressed police reform, affordable housing and the vivacity of downtown to be the top priorities of his second term in office.
In February 2021, the Portland Business Alliance, Greater Portland’s Chamber of Commerce, shared a holistic roadmap for economic recovery. The plan includes successfully implementing the new voter-approved police accountability measure, which aims to eradicate institutional racism from public safety agencies.
What COVID-19 restrictions are in place in Portland?
Oregon lifted many COVID restrictions during the summer of 2021, but in light of rising cases driven by the Delta variant and CDC guidance on masks, the state reinstituated mask mandates on Aug. 27, 2021. The mandates apply to everyone five and older (two years and older whenever possible) in all indoor and outdoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. The order is expected to be in place until February 2022 but may be lifted earlier depending on disease and immunization trends. Masks also remain required in healthcare settings and on public transit, such as buses, streetcars, light rail and trains, and in airplanes and airports.
Capacity restrictions were lifted in summer 2021, but private businesses may set and enforce their own capacity limits. 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.