Portland seems picture-perfect in a few ways.
It has open-minded liberal-leaning laws and public systems (meaning excellent transportation and above-average programs). It also has great schools, tons of activities, and Voodoo Doughnut.
But before you buy a home in Portland there are a few things you should know. Portland is not the city it was 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. Drug use, a significant unhoused population, and an increase in crime have led many long-time residents to leave or, at least, change where in the city they live.
If you’re interested in visiting (or moving to) Portland anytime soon, let’s go through some of what I consider to be the city’s worst neighborhoods which you should probably avoid right now.
Related: Living in Portland as a Conservative
Does Portland have ghettos? There are high-crime neighborhoods in Portland that suffer from a poor job market, lack of law enforcement, and social unrest. These areas might not qualify as racially homogenous ghettos but have inadequate housing and all the symptoms of the average American ghetto.
In short, sure, you can get shot or mugged in Portland. However, the rougher areas of the city have very little in common with the inner-city areas of other major cities.
Instead of places that should never be approached, Portland mostly has some “crappy” neighborhoods which are not-great places to live and shouldn’t be ventured into after dark.
In this article, we will go over the worst Portland neighborhoods for visitors and homeowners, including:
- St. Johns
- Mill Park
- Lloyd District
- Powell Hurst
- Old Town Chinatown
If you’re looking for current safety statistics, consulting a crime map of the city is probably your best bet.
Worst Neighborhoods & Areas In Portland, Oregon
Centennial is located in East Portland and is surrounded by other neighborhoods you might not want to be in after dark. Its notable businesses are pubs and tattoo shops, neither of which signify tourist-friendliness.
From homeless people to a lack of secure surveillance, the centennial region in Portland checks off all the signs of being a ghetto.
Centennial has among the highest violent crime rates in Portland, but that’s still well under the national average. That said, the national average of violent crimes like murder and robbery is hiked by really bad neighborhoods in nearly policeless states.
Centennial cannot be compared to the inner cities of Chicago. But it can be said that the centennial is to Portland what Chicago is to Illinois.
Bridgeton is located in Multnomah County in Portland, Oregon. The area is far from a ghetto, and it is laughable to consider it one, given that it is home to country clubs. These are supposed to signify gentrification.
Bridgeton was nearly a ghetto at one point because of population thinness. However, the gentrification process introduced stricter surveillance making the place safer than it used to be.
Still, Bridgeton is safe for newcomers because the population’s thinness makes certain parts of the area unwelcoming to newcomers. It has a higher theft rate than the national average, and the steep inequality between country club members and the homeless results in resentment and crime.
3. St. Johns
St. Johns is located north of University Park in Portland. It is known for its ‘small big town’ vibe.
It is dense for a sub-urban area, with a population exceeding 14,000. Among them, most are middle-class income earners. This makes petty theft lucrative for the homeless and those growing up with a negative influence.
St John’s crime rate is higher than the national average, and its assault rate comes closer to the national average.
70 neighborhoods in Portland are rated higher in liveability than Kenton. But it isn’t a bad place to live in if you know the ins and outs of the place. But newcomers and visitors can often learn the hard way that Kenton’s diversity isn’t always predicated on inclusion.
The communities in Kenton are very tight-knit, and it is hard to find a social footing. The neighborhood has a thriving nightlife, but getting into the most desirable spots can be hard without previously knowing someone.
Above all, Kenton has a concerning crime rate. With a higher theft rate than the national average and an assault rate that comes pretty close to the American average, one should avoid going into Kenton alone at night.
Parkrose is the home of young professionals in Portland with similar percentages of homeowning and renting residents. It is in Multnomah County, which also houses a few other ‘bad’ neighborhoods. Parkrose has an air of gentrification with an undercurrent of unrest.
The murder rate in Parkrose is almost double the national average, as is the assault rate. There are over 1000 more motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 residents in Parkrose than is expected of an average neighborhood in America.
Sunderland is primarily a region where old homeowners reside. The crime rate here is lower than in the other neighborhoods but still goes over half the national average.
Again, it is worth emphasizing that the average crime rate in America is hiked by crime factory neighborhoods where crime is easy, lucrative, and consequence-free. A neighborhood of barely 500 people should not have anywhere over a quarter of the national average crime.
7. Lloyd District
Lloyd District is a young and hip area in Portland. It is a must-visit for nightlife but among the top three worst neighborhoods to visit on safety and crime.
It is population-dense which makes law and order much harder to implement. As a result, Lloyd District has 4 times more motor vehicle thefts, 8.7 times more thefts, 8 times more robberies, 3.5 times more murders, and 2.2 times more murders than the national average.
8. Mill Park
Also located in Multnomah County in Portland, Mill Park is a mixed suburban locale that seems to have decent public schools. Its population density, however, doesn’t ensure that every resident has a good education.
While the affluent and the middle-class income earners seem to live in harmony, they have unspoken agreements regarding property protection and flaunting wealth.
There isn’t as much violence in the neighborhood by ghetto standards, but when things get violent, they can get out of hand.
The murder rate in the region exceeds the national average, as does the motor vehicle theft rate. Petty theft and assault rates, in general, don’t exceed the national average. This shows that, for the most part, Mill Park is peaceful, but very small patches in the neighborhood are responsible for severe crimes at a very high frequency.
Outsiders who don’t know the area should avoid Mill Park, especially at night.
9. Old Town
Old Town, a.k.a. Chinatown, is a neighborhood with a primarily Asian population. There is a greater mix of diversity in some multi-family units.
For the most part, it is a renter-occupied neighborhood because of the low rent. The affordability of Chinatown rents makes it attractive to lower-income bracket individuals, some of whom are responsible for the relatively higher crime rate.
Old Town’s crime rate is alarmingly higher than the national average:
With 7.9 times more assaults, 3.3 times more murders, 6.5 times more instances of robbery, 4.7 times more theft, and 3.4 times more motor vehicle thefts, Old Town is better for criminals than visitors.
10. Powell Hurst
Powell Hurst has a neck-and-neck owners’ and renters’ market. It has relatively affluent people residing in it with stricter surveillance. This can attract some criminal elements that are highly motivated to go farther than the average criminal.
One can conclude from the fact that Powell Hurst’s petty theft rate is lower than the national average, and its burglary rates exceed that of the average in the united states. It has a higher assault and motor vehicle theft rate but 6 times fewer murders than the national average rate.
Hazelwood is located south of Parkrose Heights. Its residence demographics have been shifting, with more renters replacing homeowning residents. The rise in crime in Hazelwood is responsible for owners selling their homes to Real Estate Investment Trusts and investors who own to lease.
Hazelwood has more than double the theft rate of America, a motor vehicle theft rate that is 4x the national average, and an assault rate that exceeds the American average as well.
Not the most visitor-friendly.
But if you decide to visit, avoid the area around the gateway transit center.
Montavilla is not a ghetto by any stretch, yet it is still not as safe as the relatively safer places in American cities. It has a rate slightly higher than the national average for certain crimes and lower for others. It isn’t a great place to leave your car in, nor is it the perfect place to flaunt wealth and leave items unattended.
Montavilla is known for its affluence, and that attracts thieves and robbers. As a visitor, you might interrupt them if you roam the streets at night or may be seen as one.
South of Mill Park, Powellhurst-Gilbert is a neighborhood with over 27,000 residents. A dense neighborhood with similar renter and homeowner demographics, the place is diverse in income brackets.
The clash of steep wealth differences leads to higher crime.
Powellhurst-Gilbert has a 1.5 times higher assault rate than the national average crime rate. Its motor vehicle theft rate is over 4 times higher, and its burglary rate exceeds the national average by double digits.
From a look at Portland’s law and order situation, there are noticeable differences in the security of property and life across different neighborhoods.
From a safety perspective, the ideal neighborhoods have over 80% of homeowning residents. If said neighborhoods are surrounded by areas with over 60% homeowning residents, you can consider it the safest place to be in Portland.
Having said that, the homelessness situation in Oregon (and Seattle too for that matter) has made the city feel unsafe for many and this list may grow or change as the problem remains unaddressed in any significant capacity.
I will also say that if your neighborhood is one here, you either agree with me or are slightly offended. The truth is, there are lovely people everywhere and things to like about every place. However, for most people, the above neighborhoods should certainly not be at the top of their list. Write me an angry note if you must.