There’s a laundry list of reasons to visit Portland, Oregon. This valley city is known for its music, coffee, craft beers, and gorgeous parks, not to mention the breathtaking views of the mountains surrounding it.
It’s also worth mentioning that Portland is the most populous city in Oregon, with more than 640,000 residents in 2021. With a conscious focus on eco-friendliness, independent music, and delicious food, Portland is one of the most exciting and welcoming cities in Oregon.
But before you book a trip to the City of Roses (Portland’s official nickname), you’ll want to know how safe it is. For that reason, we’ve delved into this city’s crime statistics and potentially dangerous neighborhoods.
That way, we can give you the scoop on all you’ll need about staying safe in Portland, Oregon. Read on to learn all you need to know!
Is Portland Safe to Visit?
Portland is safe to visit, with most of the city’s crime occurring outside tourist areas. But while the city’s violent crime rate is lower than the national average, property crime is far more common in Portland than in other similarly-sized cities in the United States.
There aren’t any travel alerts for those visiting Oregon, though visitors should be aware of the potential for wildfires (during the summer) and harsh winter weather.
As a result of rising rent and housing prices and a more liberal, “soft-on-crime” approach throughout Portland, the city’s unhoused population has increased over the last few years.
Some of these unhoused individuals are addicted to drugs, so it’s not uncommon to see used hypodermic needles littering the ground near encampments and methadone clinics.
Car theft is also a problem in Portland, Oregon. Between October 2021 and October 2022, more than 12,000 cars were stolen throughout the city. The neighborhoods with the highest car theft rates were Hazelwood and Lents.
Other types of property theft, particularly shoplifting, have also increased over the last several years. Diapers, baby formula, and laundry detergent are some of the most commonly stolen items.
Those planning to visit Portland should be aware of the city’s most prevalent crimes, which include:
- Theft and larceny
- Car theft
The bulk of these crimes occurs in the Downtown area, although the Hazelwood and Northwest neighborhoods are also known for having above-average crime rates.
Crime in Portland
Travelers visiting Portland are unlikely to become victims of crime, especially violent crime. That said, those who drive into the city are at risk of having their vehicle stolen, especially when parking overnight in Downtown Portland, Hazelwood, or Lents.
Shoplifting, petty theft (larceny), assault, and vandalism have been on the rise in Portland since 2020.
The driving force behind these increases is the COVID-19 pandemic, although the rise in the unhoused population throughout Portland might also contribute to the above-average crime rate. Still, in 2022 crime rates began to decrease.
Although they haven’t yet reached pre-pandemic levels, Portland is still considered safe for visitors. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that visitors shouldn’t be aware of the city’s most pressing problems, particularly its high rate of theft and larceny.
Theft and Larceny
Most shops in Portland have a “hands-off” policy concerning shoplifting. If employees spot someone shoplifting, they’re generally encouraged not to approach the shoplifter or attempt to stop them from leaving the store.
The city also has a growing population of unhoused individuals, many of whom struggle with addiction. Some of these individuals regularly shoplift to earn money to spend on drugs, and few shoplifters are jailed or charged for their crimes.
Unfortunately, this means that it’s not uncommon to see people shoplifting while in Portland, Oregon. Visitors are encouraged to copy store employees and take a hands-off approach when they see shoplifting.
You can report shoplifting quietly to store staff, but do not attempt to speak to or stop a shoplifter, as doing so can escalate the situation and result in violence.
It’s also wise to remove all valuables from your vehicle as soon as you arrive at your hotel or rental home. Theft from vehicles is one of the most common forms of larceny in Portland, and locking your car doors isn’t a guarantee that you won’t become a victim of theft.
Many car thieves in the Portland area have emergency window-breaking hammers that can smash through a car’s windows in an instant.
These thieves can break into your vehicle and steal your belongings in seconds, so leaving possessions, children, or pets unattended in a car while visiting Portland is never safe.
If you’ve ever visited a major city, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen some form of vandalism, particularly graffiti. But the vandalism in Portland goes beyond spray-painted buildings and underpasses.
Business owners and residents in Portland have experienced broken windows and doors, stolen merchandise, and occasional riots that result in significant property damage. Vandalism is particularly problematic in Downtown Portland.
Most of these break-ins and forms of vandalization are targeted at local businesses and occur during the night. Visitors aren’t likely to suffer from these crimes, though they should be aware of them.
Staying indoors after 10 pm is a great way for travelers to avoid acts of vandalism. But it’s vital to note that vandalism isn’t the only type of crime that tends to occur during the late-night hours in Portland.
The majority of the city’s car thefts occur between 6 pm and midnight. For that reason, you’ll never want to leave your car parked in an unsecured location (like along the street) overnight.
It’s estimated that at least one car is stolen in Portland every hour (or about 48 minutes, to be more precise).
Considering the fact that the Portland Police Bureau doesn’t have an auto theft unit (and hasn’t had one since 2006), it should come as no surprise that car theft is such a significant issue in Portland.
Hazelwood and Lents are the neighborhoods that see the most car thefts, but Downtown also sees hundreds of car thefts per year. So, if you’re planning on driving into Portland or renting a car while you’re visiting, it’s crucial to park your vehicle in a safe, protected area.
Locked and restricted-access parking garages are the best choices for drivers. Installing a touch-activated alarm and parking near security cameras is also a great way to lower the chances of having your car stolen while in Portland.
However, the nature of car thefts in Portland varies greatly. For example, some thieves may not attempt to steal your car and drive it away. They might instead steal parts from your car, leaving your car undrivable and partially stripped.
For this reason, the City of Portland Crime Prevention Program recommends that drivers “etch your car parts with the VIN number so that parts may be identified if found.”
According to the City of Portland Police Bureau, between December 2021 and December 2022, there were 10,033 assaults in Portland, Oregon. That’s an increase of 2.6% when compared to December 2018 to December 2019.
While this increase might not be very dramatic, Portland set a new record for homicides in 2021. So, in many ways, Portland has become more dangerous than ever before, particularly in terms of violent crime.
Most assaults occur in the Downtown area, particularly Old Town. In 2021, a visitor was stabbed while visiting this part of Downtown Portland. The attack was allegedly unprovoked and occurred during the afternoon, at about 2 pm.
Consequently, visitors should be wary of spending time in Old Town, even during the daytime. But some of Portland’s most popular attractions and eateries, including Voodoo Doughnut, are in the Old Town neighborhood, so you might be tempted to visit this area.
If you do, always travel with friends or family, never alone. If possible, carry a legal and easy-to-use form of personal protection on you, such as pepper spray.
But the best way to avoid physical assault while visiting Portland is to avoid the Old Town area altogether. Sticking to the heart of the Downtown area (near the Portland Art Museum and Portland State University) is advisable.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Downtown Portland tends to attract more tourists than any other part of the city, but this neighborhood has the highest crime rate in Portland. Consequently, staying in Downtown Portland is a mixed bag.
On the one hand, most of the city’s tourist attractions are in Downtown Portland. But on the other hand, this area is a hotspot of theft, vandalism, and assault.
Unfortunately, those hoping to see Portland’s most iconic parks, restaurants, and museums won’t be able to avoid visiting Downtown Portland. That said, there are ways to remain safe while staying in or visiting Downtown.
Plotting your route before leaving your hotel, walking with friends, and maintaining a steady pace (walking with purpose) are excellent ways to avoid street crime while in Downtown Portland.
It’s also vital to remain alert and aware while walking around the Downtown area. Although you might enjoy listening to music while going for a stroll, it’s best to keep your ears and eyes while in Downtown Portland. Doing so can help you avoid becoming a victim of theft or assault.
Old Town, a subsection of Downtown, is one of the most crime-ridden parts of Downtown Portland. Violent crime in this area, particularly shootings, is higher than in other parts of the Downtown area.
In 2022, Old Town had the fifth-highest shooting rate in Portland. The population of unhoused individuals is also higher in this part of Downtown than in other areas. But Downtown isn’t the only area with an above-average crime rate.
Many neighborhoods in the east part of Portland are home to higher-than-average rates of property and violent crime, with Hazelwood, Centennial, Lents, and Powellhurst being some of the most notorious.
If you’re planning on visiting these areas, you’ll want to avoid leaving your car parked overnight, especially in a public parking lot that’s easily accessible. You’ll also want to avoid walking around outdoors at night.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you’ll find some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Portland’s safety and crime statistics.
Is it safe to walk in downtown Portland at night?
Walking in Downtown Portland at night is generally safe. Visitors should try to travel in groups or with friends while spending time outdoors at night. Visitors should exercise caution when traveling alone at night and stick to well-lit areas.
What is the safest part of Portland?
The safest neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, is Healy Heights (near Marquam Nature Park). Eastmoreland, a neighborhood east of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, is also considered one of the safest parts of Portland.
What should I avoid in Portland?
While in Portland, it’s best to avoid driving (either your own vehicle or a rental vehicle), visiting high-crime neighborhoods (like Hazelwood and Powellhurst), and staying out late while exploring Downtown Portland.
Why is homelessness so high in Portland?
A shortage of affordable housing is one of the primary reasons why homelessness has been on the rise. However, increasing drug addiction rates and issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might have also contributed to the uptick in the city’s homeless population.
What part of Portland has the most homeless?
Portland’s unhoused population tends to gather near major highways like Interstate 205 (I-205). Old Town, Mill Park, Powellhurst, and some areas of Downtown Portland also have encampments and a high unhoused population.
Is Vancouver, Washington, safer than Portland, Oregon?
Vancouver, Washington, has a lower violent and property crime rate than Portland. Notably, Vancouver is less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) away from the heart of Portland, Oregon, making its difference in crime statistics quite remarkable.
So, Is Portland Safe to Visit?
Because Portland’s population is so enormous, crime within the city is higher than in other parts of the state. That said, Portland is generally safe for visitors.
Avoid high-crime neighborhoods and never walk alone late at night, especially in the Sunderland, Hazelwood, and Downtown areas. Sticking to these tips should help you enjoy a fun and safe visit!