Oregon : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Oregon - state review
Portland, Oregon, is in the state’s northern section, just south of the Washington state line.
Two rivers run through and eventually meet in Portland, Willamette, and Columbia.
This isn’t where you’ll find information about Portland, Maine.
The two Portland cities are about as far away as can be in the continental United States, with 3200 miles between them.
Many of the websites you’ll find for each city have similar names, so we’ll be sure to detail the correct website for Portland, Oregon, as we go through the different elements.
Portland has a long history of public demonstrations and protests for civil rights or speaking out against wrongdoing.
While the 2020 protests garnered headlines in the wake of the George Floyd murder, that wasn’t Portland’s first protest by any means.
You might see protestors while you’re there or view propaganda from circling crowds of people exercising their right to free speech.
The city is split up into six quadrants, with more than 90 neighborhoods between them:
- North Quadrant: The city’s northwest section between the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.
- Northeast Quadrant: Bordered by the Columbia River on the north and I-84 to the south.
- Southeast Quadrant: This section is south of I-84 and includes the convention center and all remaining areas east of the Willamette River.
- Northwest Quadrant: This is just south of the North Quarante and west of the Willamette River. The southern boundary is just north of downtown.
- South & Southwest Quadrants: This includes the downtown area and remaining land west of the Willamette River.
Much like social media trends we see now, roses became a trend in the 1880s when a prestigious woman invited friends over to see her elaborate rose garden.
The trend took off, without social media, of course, but sprang to life so quickly that you would see roses even bordering Portland’s streets.
Is everything still coming up roses in Portland?
Warnings & Dangers in Portland
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Portland has a medium risk, but it's not as bad as you might have heard. There are a lot of ingredients that go into the risk level we provide, but Portland is struggling - like many other large cities - with an increase in violent crime. 2020 was rough, and 2021 was worse. 2022 and beyond remain to be seen, with new initiatives to fight crime, keep police staffing at safe levels, and reduce budget-breaking overtime. I will give commendation to the tourism website that addresses this issue head-on with a section on Safety in Portland. It doesn't hold back on tough questions tourists are asking.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
TriMet is the public transportation system that covers bus service through the city and the suburbs, a light rail, and a street car system. Portland is very bicycle-friendly. You can also get taxis and rideshares easily or choose to rent your own vehicle. While public transportation can go through high-crime areas, all methods of getting around have risks and benefits. Choose the one you feel safe using to get around but always remain aware of your surroundings and avoid distractions like headphones.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
While the 186 pickpockets and purse snatchings are nothing compared to the 13,400 car break-ins, it's still worth treating this as a medium risk. There can be crowded parts of the city or at big events, and if there are protests, that could also cause a distraction, which would make you an easy target.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Portland faces a lot of risks throughout the year, so it's a medium risk for sure. There are possible earthquakes that give no warning. Flooding, wildfires, air quality issues, and landslides are other risks. Since many of these risks are new to some tourists, check out the website publicalerts.org/hazards to read how to stay safe before, during, and after these potential events.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
32% of robberies happen in public places, known as highway robbery. In addition, 42% of robberies happen in businesses or other places the general population might be. This city has a lower robbery rate in homes than many other cities, so be on guard. While most robberies are among people who know each other, you can lower your risk by not wearing valuables or having an easy-to-spot designer purse or a fancy watch.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
The bigger risk would be from protests that get out of control or a home-grown terrorist, but being a big population region, there's going to be a medium risk all around. Seattle to the north would be a more likely target due to the high-tech areas and shipping ports.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Search for the Scam Alert Network through the Oregon Department of Justice website. You can sign up for scam alerts there, and any new scam will be mailed to you. The top scams reported in 2021 mostly impacted residents.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Violent crime data shows women are actually less likely than men to be a victim of a crime, but you'll need to use street smarts and common sense to lower your risk further. Don't drink alcohol beyond your ability to make smart decisions. Don't go to private house parties and stay in the well-lit sections of the entertainment districts.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The way the 2022 Portland Water Quality Report is worded, there's no clear message if there was a violation or not - but it does look like all testing was in full compliance. I'd advise calling the Water Quality Line before you go to ask about current water quality tests. That number is (503)823-7525. You can also email WBWaterLine@portlandoregon.gov.
Safest Places to Visit in Portland
You want to visit TravelPortland.com to get to the tourism site for the Oregon location.
If you go to VisitPortland.com, you’ll be at the Maine location, which is 3200 miles away.
The Travel Portland website has a really cool feature called “Near Me,” which is a 3D interactive map that marks your location and shows you cool things to visit nearby.
It’s like a tour guide right on your mobile device!
Step aboard the Oregon Maritime Museum to spend an hour on a steam-powered sternwheel tugboat.
This is the last one of its kind still in use.
From the wheelhouse to the boiler room, you’ll get a full tour of the boat while riding the Willamette.
(And in case you didn’t know, Willamette is pronounced: “Will-AM-it.”
Locals will tell you “Willamette, Dammit” so you remember how it rhymes.
They aren’t cursing at you.)
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is full of innovative and interactive exhibits, but what really makes it cool is that kids can enjoy it by day, and at night there are special events held for adults only to enjoy a few cold beverages in this unique setting.
Go inside to go outside at the World Forestry Centers Discovery Museum, which explains the importance of forests, trees, and the surrounding ecosystem to the world.
You’ll learn about the animals in the forest, how logging works, and how sustainability will help forest regions thrive.
That museum is in Washington Park, which is a great place to spend a day or two.
The Oregon Zoo is also located there, along with the Portland Japanese Garden.
You simply cannot miss the International Rose Test Garden, in bloom from late spring to early fall, with more than 10,000 types of roses and sweet scents filling the air.
What makes this even sweeter?
The Rose Garden is free to visit!
Oaks Park is an amusement park with a carnival atmosphere south of the city.
It’s no Disneyland, but it’s a great adventure for kids and adults, with seasonal activities like “The Park After Dark” during Halloween.
Forest Park lives up to its name with a massive park near an urban setting, and if that’s not enough – there’s a witch’s castle inside!
Ok, so the witch thing might be a little creepy.
You can also visit Pittock Mansion and see how the affluent Portland family once lived.
Portland is a progressive city, and it’s a cultural destination for everyone.
The tourism website (TravelPortland.com, remember – don’t go to the wrong one!) has a great breakdown of every culture you can imagine, from Japanese Americans to Latinx/Hispanics to LGBTQ and even Jewish culture – there is so much a tourist can learn here and enjoy traditions from other countries.
Places to Avoid in Portland
Neighborhoods in the far east and northern sections of Portland have the highest crime rates and are even mentioned in the Portland Safety FAQ section of the tourism website.
These traditionally underserved and financially-disempowered communities were hit hard by the pandemic and saw violent crime rise.
While the downtown area can also have crime, you need to avoid leaving a car unlocked, having even a small space rolled down on a window, and leaving the car as empty as if it came off the factory line.
57% of thefts are directly related to car break-ins or car accessory thefts.
Avoiding arguments with protestors, even if you disagree with their cause.
You do have the same freedom of speech and right to speak your mind, but don’t let tensions escalate.
Most protestors will be happy to have a calm and rational discussion, but it just takes a few angry people to turn a protest into an angry mob in any city.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Portland
- Portland.gov is the website for all things related to the city of Portland, Oregon. PortlandMaine.gov is the website for the Maine location. That should be much easier to remember than if you were visiting Portland, Maine. The same goes for social media channels – all handles are @portlandpolice.
- You can read the latest annual report from the police department to learn about crime issues, safety initiatives, and police interaction information. This offers a great all-encompassing look at crime challenges citywide and through the three different police precincts.
- The open data section of the police department’s website will show you all the crime information you can handle. You can get straight crime data, see the areas with the highest 911 call rates, view use-of-force actions by police officers, and learn about the most stolen car models. (With a car theft rate nearly six times the national average, this is great information to have before you consider which model of a rental car to get.)
- For general city information or questions, use the 311 services. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or dial 311 locally. For calls outside of Portland, call (503)823-4000.
- The Transportation section of the city’s website has detailed safety guides for however you choose to get around – walking, biking, public transportation, or driving. You can download maps, see the low-traffic streets that are safe to walk on, and learn how to use the various modes of public transportation.
- Each district has different parking rules, hours, and fees. Use Parking Kitty, which is the mobile app provided by the city. The rules and regulations are mind-boggling, so be sure to review the parking rules for your destination ahead of time.
- Check out PDXReady.org to see an interactive map of natural disaster risks. You can enter the address of where you’ll be staying and see the top risks, or search for the places you plan to visit.
- Oregon doesn’t allow drivers to pump their own gas. It’s a law that has been in place since the 1950s. There will be an attendant who pumps the gas for you. Don’t try to be nice and say, “Oh, I’ll do that,” because you simply aren’t allowed to – you are welcome to tip the attendant if you want, but it’s not required.
- Use the WaterWorks map provided by the city of Portland to look for water quality issues. The website also goes into detail about potential water issues like discoloration or odd smells/tastes. When in doubt, let the tap water run for a few minutes to see if the issue clears up. Sometimes it’s the plumbing of a building causing problems, but it can also be a water issue from nearby water main work.
- In case you’re wondering, “Why is she not mentioning more about Witch’s Castle???” I’ll get into it now. This is a stone structure in Forest Park that has a great story behind it (that I won’t ruin for you first-timers). It’s in a perfectly safe space, and you’ll never be alone with either one of the ghosts said to haunt it. It can be covered in graffiti from time to time, but the parks team works to keep it clean when possible.
So... How Safe Is Portland Really?
Portland’s safety issues arise on several levels.
First, there’s the rising violent crime – mostly shootings and homicides – that has led to the mayor declaring a State of Emergency many times in the past year.
The emergency declaration comes at the same time the Portland Police Department is dealing with historically low staffing levels.
The 2020 protests lasted almost three months, blasting through the overtime budget of the police department.
That puts the department deciding between having enough officers to cover the city while working overtime or risky public safety to adhere to a budget that’s already bleeding red ink.
Now, here’s the other side of this coin.
A Homicide Problem Analysis was done and created a report known as CPSC (not to be confused with the Consumer Product Safety Commission – this one stands for California Partnership for Safe Communities.
According to the CPSC report, there are 200 people in Portland who are responsible for the bulk of the shootings happening at increasing rates.
Much of the violent crime happens between known affiliates, gang members, or drug-dealing situations.
There isn’t a rash of crime against tourists, but there is more crime in places tourists might be.
Add to that – Portland prides itself on being “weird” and accepting of all people.
Some people see “weird” as dangerous, but that’s not the case.
Portland is a big city, and you’ll likely be panhandled by homeless people, offered drugs, or have a thief peek into your car for valuables.
That could be said of any big city.
Stick to the main streets and tourist attractions.
Don’t walk around alone after dark.
Use common sense, situational awareness, and basic safety steps, and you’ll get to enjoy the cultural melting pot in Portland – and all of its “weirdness.”
How Does Portland Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Visa or Visa Waiver to get into the country through Customs. Use the U.S. State Department's Visa Wizard to see which visa works best for you. Start this process up to four months ahead of time because some embassies have long wait times for in-person interviews.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S Dollar (USD) here. Currency exchanges are available but always go inside a bank to do so. Don't use public ATMs. You can use most transportation and visit most businesses using just a credit card or mobile payment. There's little need to carry cash.
- Weather - Brings layers of clothing for the changing temperatures throughout the day, and always bring a rain jacket here. Even rainy days will be busy because Portlanders aren't going to let the rain stop them from enjoying the city. Waterproof shoes are a great idea too. If you're going hiking, bring hiking boots that are worn in before you hike. During winter, you'll need sweaters and sweatshirts, with thick socks and a coat.
- Airports - Portland International Airport is on the north side of town, right along the Columbia River. It's a major airport, so you'll get great direct flights to big city destinations.
- Travel Insurance - We always recommend travel insurance and be sure you know the "Act of God" restrictions your policy might have, just in case of a major event - like an earthquake.
Portland Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Oregon - Safety by City