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 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. We recommend that visitors to Portland exercise the same caution, concern and common sense as when traveling to any metropolitan destination.

Given isolated incidents of violence at public demonstrations, Travel Portland recommends visitors avoid demonstration areas, which are typically removed from many businesses and attractions popular with visitors to our area. Visitors are unlikely to see signs of the protests that have been shown in national news media.

In response to bad street behavior by people experiencing homelessness, Portland has increased police foot patrols in high-foot-traffic areas and enhanced the Clean & Safe program in the downtown area. 

Portland’s rate of violent crime remains lower than the average for U.S. cities of a similar size.

What is happening with protests in Portland?

Demonstrations associated with multiple movements and belief groups have occurred in Portland since May 2020. While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, national media have covered numerous instances of violence that arose from the protests. Portland saw protests against systemic racism and police brutality for over 100 days during the summer and fall of 2020. Protests have significantly decreased following the election and with recent city efforts to address concerns directly.

What about the violence I saw on the news?

Most protests — and people at protests — are peaceful. Demonstrations in Portland have at times included clashes between groups of opposing political ideologies, confrontations between protesters and local and federal police officers, and one shooting. The wanton destruction of property by a very small group does not represent the values of Portland. The peaceful protests which seek to build unity while advocating for needed change best represent the character of Portland’s residents and the city’s hopes for the future.

We do not condone violence or vandalism. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has proposed more tools for investigating protest-related violence and tougher penalties for people caught engaging in violence and vandalism.

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

More activities and attractions in downtown Portland are opening every week.

Like many other metropolitan downtowns in the United States and worldwide, Portland’s current downtown closures are primarily related to pandemic restrictions. Many offices are mandating remote work for employees, resulting in thousands of fewer people downtown during business hours each day, which then in turn affects other small downtown restaurants and stores. Protests are not a primary factor for downtown closures as most demonstrations have quelled and the protests making headlines in 2020 mostly occurred in a small area of downtown late in the evening while nearly all businesses were closed.

Many downtown attractions, including the Portland Saturday Market, Portland Farmers Market at PSU, Oregon Historical Society and Portland Art Museum are open and welcoming visitors.

Beyond protests, is violence on the rise in Portland? How dangerous is Portland?

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 is on the rise, mirroring similar trends in cities nationwide. Police documented approximately 900 shootings in 2020, compared to 393 shootings in 2019. 2020 saw the highest number of homicides in Portland since the early 1990s.

Portland’s increase in gun violence is concerning, which is why plans are in place to address it. Most of the reported gun violence and homicides have occurred in neighborhoods away from hotels and business districts popular with visitors.

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. The plan includes assigning more detectives to investigate and follow up on shootings, as well as more outreach and hospital-based trauma responders. The mayor also enlisted the Police Bureau and Office of Violence Prevention to submit budget requests that better reflect their needs to respond to gun violence.

Why are there so many homeless people in Portland?

Homelessness is a national issue that is impacting Portland and many other cities. Due to a lack of shelter available for those in need, our unsheltered population is often visible. 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 addressing police reform?

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.

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?

To slow the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, effective Aug. 27, a statewide mask mandate is in place. Oregonians and visitors ages 5 and up are required to wear face coverings in all public indoor settings, as well as crowded outdoor public spaces where physical distancing is not possible, regardless of vaccination status.

For more details, please visit Travel Portland’s Visiting Portland During the Pandemic and More 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.