Portland is the largest city in Oregon and an attractive tourist spot for people visiting from out of state because it’s among the safer cities in the country, given its size.
It may come as a surprise since many people tend to associate larger cities with heavy amounts of crime because they are ripe locations for criminal activity. However, Portland doesn’t suffer from this issue nearly as much.
It’s still a large city compared to most of the cities in the country despite it not often getting mentioned with the most common big cities.
If you’re thinking about visiting Portland, you won’t have a lot to worry about, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go in prepared.
It’s still a large city, so you’ll want to take the necessary precautions to ensure you have a trip free of any dangerous experiences, and this short guide will cover as many aspects as possible to help you stay safe.
Is Portland Safe to Visit?
The short answer is yes. Visiting Portland should not bring you too much concern. It certainly doesn’t have the same high crime rates as Detroit, Houston, Seattle, New Orleans, or other large cities.
That said, like most other cities through 2021, Portland also experienced a rise in rates for certain forms of crime. So, Portland still experiences its fair share of crime regularly, be it petty theft, robberies, gang activity, gun violence, or other minor and major forms of crime.
In fact, Starbucks just closed 2 stores because the progressive DA’s “soft-on-crime” policies have emboldened criminals; they’ll get a relatively mild slap on the wrist for burglaries or robberies. That said, it’s not all bad.
But you’ll still want to avoid certain areas because they have a higher crime rate. Knowing about these areas before you go for your trip is incredibly important, as that knowledge can ensure you stay somewhere that is not particularly close to them.
It also helps to stay clear of any dangerous areas when visiting certain tourist attractions during your visit.
Along with researching certain areas ahead of time, there are numerous other ways to make your trip as safe as possible, and we’ll go over all the most essential methods in the following sections.
Crime in Portland
According to Portland’s crime rates, there’s a contrast between the number of crimes against people and crimes against property. From April 2021 to April 2022, there were 11,194 crimes reported under the “person” category and 62,790 crimes reported under the “property” category.
The three most reported offenses were larceny, vandalism, and motor vehicle theft. However, a good portion of the crime occurs in Portland’s north and east parts, far from where most tourists spend their time in the city.
The city and the police bureau are also working to bring more economic and social stability to these places to make them safer. Being a tourist, the likelihood of robbery, vandalism, and motor vehicle theft affecting you is relatively low if you stay in the right areas.
Motor vehicle theft is also a non-factor if you don’t travel with a vehicle. In most instances, the most significant type of crime you’ll have to worry about is larceny because of the many forms it can take.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, larceny includes theft of bicycles, personal accessories, motor vehicles, pickpocketing, shoplifting, and stealing any other form of property.
If anything, you may wind up the victim of pickpocketing if you aren’t aware enough of your surroundings, so be extra mindful of this when you are out and about in the city. When traveling with smaller items you can carry, such as a backpack or purse, keep them on your person.
If you must set them down at some point, keep them close and preferably in a spot where you can see them easily.
Stealing always happens extremely fast, so you won’t have a chance of saving your belongings from a thief if you can’t see or reach them at a moment’s notice.
We’ll cover other ways to protect yourself from criminal activity in some of the later sections of this guide, but for now, let’s go over some methods to help you avoid bad neighborhoods.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
Due to the lower crime rates and setup of Portland, avoiding the reputed bad areas of the city is not as daunting a task as it is in some other large cities.
There are only a handful of shady locations that you need to know about, but they are out of the way of the areas you’ll most likely frequent as a tourist, so you won’t need to worry about these shady spots all that much.
One neighborhood that is progressing towards having a safer environment is Kenton. It suffered from severe crime rates a few years ago and was a heavily avoided location by both tourists and residents alike.
You’re more likely to find trouble on the neighborhood’s outskirts than on the interior, so be aware of that.
If Kenton continues to trend in the direction it is currently going, then it should become a safe area to explore for everyone, but that will likely take a few more years at the very least.
Due to its placement between I-205 and I-84, Mill Park is home to a large population of homeless individuals. This issue is present throughout the majority of the not-so-great areas in Portland because the homeless are more common around the areas close to major highways.
Because Mill Park is by two highways, it naturally has a higher number of homeless individuals.
Outside of that, nothing else makes Mill Park very dangerous, so it’s not the worst area in Portland, but it’s certainly far from one that you’ll want to pay a visit to.
Of all the neighborhoods we researched while making this guide, Centennial is the one that you’ll want to avoid most. Fortunately, it’s well away from the parts of Portland that have the biggest attractions for tourists, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally stumbling across it in your travels.
Here are a few other noteworthy areas that you’ll also want to do your best to avoid:
- St. Johns
They all suffer from similar issues related to homelessness that the city is trying to address. While some areas are worse than others, their differences aren’t significant enough to make any of them safe to visit. Especially not at night.
Best Practices to Avoid Bad Areas
This next section will cover some easy tips you can utilize to avoid bad areas and keep out of harm’s way when visiting Portland.
Dress Like You’re From the Area
Criminals target people who look vulnerable or exploitable, and tourists often fit those exact criteria by default. The best thing you can do to combat this is dress as if you are a local.
That way, you can blend in with the crowd and make yourself look less like someone from out of town that has valuable items worth stealing. This trick doesn’t always work, but it’s an easy method that you can make use of without any real hassle.
It could potentially save you from having an unpleasant encounter. Before you visit the city, definitely check out what types of clothing people wear in the areas you plan on visiting.
Stay in Populated Areas
Being in populated areas is more critical to staying safe than you may think, as the more eyes around, the less likely crime is to happen. The only real exception to this is minor crimes like pickpocketing because there are ways to do that discreetly.
However, criminals will still be less likely to try it in populated areas since that’ll make it easier for them to get caught in the act. At night, populated areas are critical to your safety, and you should make it a point to stay in well-lit areas where there are lots of people.
It also includes when you’re walking to your destination. Don’t walk along paths that are devoid of people or have a lot of dark areas because those are the places where criminals will most likely strike.
Keep Your Possessions on You
Don’t ever let go of your possessions when you’re in an unfamiliar area because it only takes half a second for someone to steal them. It may seem a little inconvenient to carry something like a small backpack when riding a bus or sitting down eating somewhere.
Still, a minor inconvenience is better than having your belongings taken. If you have a car and don’t want to have specific items on you the whole time, you can leave them in the vehicle.
But ensure you store them out of sight. Either hide them underneath the seats or in the glove compartment so they won’t be visible to anyone passing by.
You shouldn’t constantly be on the lookout for trouble because that will make it difficult to enjoy your trip. However, whenever you’re in a new area, you have to pay attention to your surroundings because you don’t know what to expect.
As mentioned previously, criminals like to go after those who look vulnerable. So, do try to actively pay attention to the things going on around you and keep an eye out for anything that strikes you as suspicious.
Ideally, you won’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but remember that it only takes one glance to catch something, so stay vigilant, especially if you’re traveling alone.
Adhere to Common Sense
Finally, trust your instincts and follow common sense. If a stranger approaches you and asks strange questions like where you’re staying or where you’re going, or if you’re in a particular part of town that doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut.
If you aren’t familiar with a particular area that makes you feel uncomfortable, either because of how it looks or the people in it, the best thing you can do is leave as quickly as possible. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so don’t ever ignore your instincts when they tell you something is wrong.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some questions that you may still have about how safe it is to visit Portland, Oregon:
Is it safe to walk in downtown Portland?
Yes, but many people on online forums don’t recommend walking around downtown after 10 PM. It isn’t incredibly dangerous after that time, but things tend to get noticeably more sketchy, especially on weekend nights.
Is Portland sketchy?
Compared to other large cities, it’s hard to say whether Portland is any more or less sketchy because it has both good and bad areas, just like any city. Overall, it leans more towards the less sketchy side of things, so you won’t have to fear dealing with large amounts of criminal activity as long as you follow the above tips for staying out of bad areas.
What is the best part of Portland to stay in?
Downtown Portland is probably the place to stay if you want to feel relatively safe while also having easy access to all the city’s major attractions. The hotels in this area are also not outlandishly expensive, so you won’t have to spend top dollar for a comfortable lodging experience.
Do you need a car in Portland?
No, a car is not necessary in Portland if you plan to stay strictly in the city because most things are within walking distance. However, if you want to check out some of the more scenic attractions that aren’t in the city’s heart, then a car is highly recommended.
Does Portland have good public transport?
Yes, Portland has some of the best public transportation in the United States. It features subways, buses, and bicycles, so you have a healthy selection of options for getting around.
So, Is Portland Oregon Safe?
As far as large cities go, Portland is one you should feel safe paying a visit to. It still possesses all the forms of crime you can find in every other city, but unlike those cities, Portland’s crime rate is not quite as extreme.
If you plan to visit, ensure you research the areas you’ll be visiting ahead of time to know what to expect.