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. While Portland has a robust safety infrastructure and a welcoming community, we recommend that visitors to Portland exercise the same caution, concern and common sense as when traveling to any metropolitan destination. While crime is unpredictable, data has shown that the majority of instances 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 riots.

While the city occasionally sees small groups engage in disruptive behavior, activity is typically contained away from visitor attractions and areas where most visitors stay and explore. Protests have significantly decreased in recent months, in part due to city efforts to address concerns directly.

The Portland Police Bureau last declared a riot on May 25, 2021, following protests marking the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death. 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.

I recently saw Portland on the news. Can you tell me what happened?

The height of last year’s string of protests drew national media attention. While those news reports are largely in the past and do not represent the current Portland experience, the coverage was mostly tied to demonstrations between groups of opposing political ideologies as well as confrontations between protesters and local and federal police officers. These previous accounts of reckless violence by a very small group do not represent the values of Portland nor do they represent the current reality of what visitors will experience in the city. 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, which has already resulted in a safer Portland.

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

Downtown Portland and its surrounding neighborhoods are open. As always, visitors are advised to check operation hours for businesses. Downtown Portland, as is the case in all major cities, is traditionally a major hub for business. As many companies instituted remote work policies due to the pandemic, consumer activity in downtown slowed and prompted some smaller businesses to reduce their hours of operation.

As COVID restrictions gradually lift, it is anticipated that workers will gradually return to offices and businesses will increase their hours of operation. Consumer activity downtown is picking up and should continue to rise.

The community has come together in person at various central city events this summer, including shopping at Portland Saturday Market, attending concerts at The Lot at Zidell Yards, and rediscovering culinary gems at Portland Night Market.

Other 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?

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. 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. 

While gun violence is unpredictable, the city mainly sees issues in concentrated areas away from hotel and tourism centers. Neighborhoods in the outer North and East sections of Portland, areas that have faced greater economic and social hardship historically and because of the pandemic, have reported more incidents. As a result, 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?

Homelessness 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 the homeless where they are.

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?

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. However, with the increase in COVID-19 cases, attributed to the highly transmissible Delta variant, the state has reinstated mask mandates. Effective Aug. 27, 2021, masks are required for everyone aged five and older (two years and older, if tolerated) in all indoor and outdoor public settings in Portland and throughout Oregon, regardless of vaccination status.  The order is expected to be in place until January 2022 but may be lifted earlier depending on disease and immunization trends.

It is recommended that you check with individual businesses to determine their respective regulations pertaining to capacity and vaccination requirements.

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.