Oct 30, 2023 - News

Violent crime rises in Oregon, falls nationwide

Illustration of crime tape forming an upward arrow.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

In the past decade, violent crime in Oregon has steadily risen, according to recently released FBI crime data.

Why it matters: A pandemic-era surge in violent crime in some major cities has led government officials to increase funding for police department budgets.

  • Portland's record $7.1 billion budget, which the city council approved in May, includes a $5.3 million increase to hire 43 new police officers and ramp up vehicle theft recovery efforts.

What they're saying: Additional funding for police "is not as simple as crime rates," Kevin Allen, a spokesperson for the bureau, told Axios.

  • It's more about having adequate staffing, he said.
  • The department is struggling to respond efficiently to violent crime, as well as to petty theft, noise complaints, civil disputes and vandalism.
  • On average, it can take an officer 21 minutes to respond to a "high-priority call," according to bureau data from last month. In September 2019, officers responded to high-priority calls within eight minutes.

"It will take years of recruiting, hiring, and training consistently to catch up and be fully staffed," Allen said. Recruitment woes have plagued the agency for years, even before the pandemic and the political unrest of 2020.

  • There's also a monthslong backlog for new recruits to get a spot in basic training.
  • The Portland Police Bureau has hired 55 officers this year and expects another dozen to be sworn in next month.
Data: FBI; Note: 2021 data was removed and estimated due to a low number of agencies reporting that year; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FBI; Note: 2021 data was removed and estimated due to a low number of agencies reporting that year; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: There were 342.4 reported violent crimes for every 100,000 people in Oregon in 2022, up 16.6% from 2019, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, per the FBI crime data.

Zoom in: With the exception of robbery and arson, all violent crimes in Oregon — which include rape, homicide and burglary — are above pre-pandemic levels, according to the data.

  • Last year, Oregon law enforcement agencies reported 14,375 violent crimes to the National Incident-Based Reporting System, compared with 12,213 offenses reported in 2019.

Between the lines: Violent crime in the U.S. decreased slightly in 2021, according to the FBI — but the data is incomplete, Axios' Russell Contreras reports.

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