Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions described Portland as a haven for violent criminals and gang members. But FBI statistics show crime in Portland is staying low or in decline across all categories but one: car theft.
Murder, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and arson are all down since 2008. The only outlier is stolen cars, which rose by 47 percent in the same period. This year's Portland Police Bureau statistics show car thefts continuing to climb.
So why all the jacked rides? The National Insurance Crime Bureau warned late last year that thieves are using electronic devices to hack vehicles with keyless entry. But Portland police spokesman Sgt. Chris Burley scoffs at that theory. He says the rise in stolen cars coincides with a spike in drug addiction, and that detectives often find stolen cars abandoned with drug paraphernalia inside.
"A lot of the people stealing cars are stealing the cars to feed a drug habit," Burley says. By that, he means people are using the cars as a place to get high—the stolen car provides a relatively hidden and isolated location to do drugs. Sometimes cars are stripped or valuables are taken from inside the vehicles, Burley says, but not always.
The bizarre campaign by federal agencies to smear Portland as a hive of scum and villainy continued last week when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement falsely claimed to arrest 33 people in Portland during a four-day immigration raid that the agency said targeted "dangerous" sanctuary cities. (In fact, agents arrested just four people in Portland, none for violent crimes.)
But a quick look at the numbers shows Portland remains safe for people, if not for cars.