Safe and Dangerous Places in Portland

by Kristin O'Neill, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 5th 2010 09:42 PM

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Areas to Avoid Portland

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In order to help you make the most of your trip to Oregon, here is some information on the safe places and areas to avoid in Portland.


Safe Places in Portland


1. Lair Hill

Just south of downtown, Lair Hill is tucked between the I-5 freeway and bustling Barbur Boulevard. Even surrounded by this much traffic, it manages to be Portland's quietest neighborhood in terms of crime. According to the Portland Police Bureau's neighborhood crime statistics, Lair Hill claims the distinction of being the only neighborhood in the city where no crimes were reported in the past year. If you find you've wandered southward from downtown, don't worry. Just stop by the Lair Hill Market Cafe for a panini and a glass of wine, and you'll find that you enjoy your time in this neighborhood that tops our list of Portland safe areas.

2. Healy Heights

It's unlikely that you'd find yourself accidentally walking into Healy Heights, because it's located about 1000 feet high in the steep West Hills. Healy Heights boasts Council Crest Park, which offers stunning views of Mount Hood. Only four crimes were reported to police last year in this hilltop neighborhood, making it one of Portland's safe places to live and visit.

3. All of the Portland Metro Area

Forbes Magazine rated Portland as the third safest city in the country behind Minneapolis and Milwaukee. Forbes used four criteria and the chance of natural disasters is the one factor that puts Portland third. Portland is flanked by an active volcano to the east (Mount Hood) and a major fault line to the west. Even with the possibility of natural disasters on either side, Forbes rated Portland high because it has the lowest crime rate among the cities in their survey. Portland safe areas also include Beaverton and Vancouver, WA.

4. Northwest Heights

Tucked behind 70 miles of trails in Portland's Forest Park, you're more likely to see deer or coyotes here than criminals. Along the slope of this neighborhood, massive houses overlook the urban areas, and it's hard to believe you're still within city limits. While a few crimes were reported in the past year, the majority were "thefts from a vehicle" according to police statistics.

5. Ardenwald

While Ardenwald is on a par with Northwest Heights for the total number of crimes committed in the past year, more serious crimes occurred here, including one car theft. That fact alone doesn't necessarily make this one of the more dangerous places in Portland. The only safe area on our list from the east side of the Willamette River, Ardenwald also boasts the most urban environment. This makes it a great choice for those who want that big city feel without the big city crime.


Areas to Avoid in Portland


1. Gateway Transit Center, Hazelwood

If you find yourself at the Gateway Transit Center you might want to catch the next train out. Hazelwood had the most murders and rapes last year of any neighborhood in Portland, according to the Portland Police Bureau's neighborhood crime statistics. It fared slightly better (second in the city) in lesser crimes like prostitution, but there were over 1800 crimes reported in the neighborhood last year, and a major concentration of them were centered around this commuter stop. These statistics make it one of Portland's most dangerous places.

2. West Burnside Street, Downtown

You can head downtown to shop at Nordstrom, spend a night at The Nines Hotel, or gaze at paintings at the Portland Art Museum. What you'll find just beside the culture is scary. Data places this area at the top of the highest crime rate figures in the city. Of more than 4800 downtown crimes reported in the last year, most involved disorderly conduct and liquor or drugs. The crime cloud hovers around West Burnside Street, the northern border of this neighborhood, known for homeless shelters and seedy bars. To ensure you stay in Portland safe areas, stick to the southern half of this divided neighborhood.

3. Old Town

If you're headed north, once you've crossed West Burnside you'll find yourself in Old Town. Old Town just can't seem to get out of the shadow of its past. Just below the street are tunnels some say were used to "shanghai" unsuspecting drunks into service on ships in the late 1800s. While you're not likely to be pressed into service aboard the Portland Spirit, you may have to side-step many homeless people sprawled on the sidewalk, in addition to avoiding drug addicts. Many visitors report being asked for money in not-so-polite ways. The city is actively trying to turn Old Town into a destination for nightlife and upscale lofts and even the old Merchant Hotel, now Old Town Pizza, is said to have an upscale clientele.

4. Eastport Plaza, Lents

Eastport Plaza, home to Portland's only Wal-Mart and a military recruiting office, is Lents' busiest corner of crime. Yes, you can get your blue jeans and milk inexpensively here, but you're also likely to be robbed. With over 2,800 crimes reported in Lents in the last year, this bastion of low cost goods had more than its fair share. There were no murders in Lents in the past year, but there were three counts of reported rape. Of the many crimes committed, most were larcenies with a good dose of disorderly conduct and threats against others. This shopping destination certainly does its best to be listed as one of the areas to avoid in Portland.

5. The Sellwood Bridge

This bridge is barely wide enough to allow two cars to pass in opposite directions, has no shoulders and offers a narrow footpath on one side only. That doesn't stop Portland's devoted cyclists from squeezing in as well. If watching cars and cyclists battle for road space doesn't tie your stomach in knots, just remind yourself that this bridge might be near collapse.

When it was originally built in 1925, the Sellwood Bridge was shorted funding because the Burnside Bridge, which was being built at the same time, went over budget. According to the Sellwood Bridge Project, the group was tasked with finding a solution for replacing the decrepit bridge, which means every possible corner was cut during construction. Today the bridge scores around two out of 100 possible points in the federal bridge sufficiency scale. Portland is called "Bridge City" for good reason, but this bridge is not a great example of bridge building at its finest. If you're worried about structural safety, this is one of the areas to avoid in Portland.
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