Portland Residents Flee City, Citing Crime and Homelessness

Homeless camp tents in northeast Portland (Wikimedia Commons)
June 28, 2023

Portland residents leaving the Oregon city at record rates say rising homelessness and rampant crime are driving them out, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday.

After the city's population rose 23 percent in the two decades before the pandemic, Portland lost almost 3 percent of its population between 2020 and 2022, according to U.S. Census data.

In one alarming anecdote in the Journal's report, a 50-year-old woman recalled being chased by a homeless man while on a jog through a wealthy neighborhood. She and her husband moved out of the city in 2021.

"It never felt unsafe before," Derek Lamprecht, the woman’s husband, told the Journal. "The character of the city changed."

The mass exodus comes as Portland faces public drug use, rampant crime, and out-of-control homelessness. The Oregon city saw a record number of homicides in 2021 as law enforcement receives little support from the city government. The Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this month that Mayor Ted Wheeler (D.) allocated more than $10 million to marijuana-related initiatives in the upcoming year in his proposed budget, nearly double the amount requested to hire new police officers.

The state passed a ballot measure in 2020 to decriminalize the use of hard drugs, the Journal report notes, which has led to increased public use. Fentanyl-related fatalities have spiked 210 percent since 2020, according to state authorities.

The city recently rolled back a 24-hour camping ban on city property though it was unenforced. The city council changed the ordinance to an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. rule in order to comply with a state law that required "objectively reasonable" public property guidelines but has branded the rollback as a crackdown on public camping that blocks sidewalks.

Other Democrat-run cities across the United States are also experiencing sharp drops in population. Between 2020 and 2022, San Francisco lost 7.5 percent of its population and New York City lost more than 5 percent, according to Census data.