Vehicle theft is a growing problem in Portland -- and it's only getting worse.
Despite its small city size, Portland is increasingly suffering from big-city problems.
Along with a host of other challenges, property crimes are on the rise. And while there's been a lot of publicity about the skyrocketing rates of car prowls and catalytic converter thefts, Portland's car theft problem has flown largely under the radar.
A recent report by AutoinsuranceEZ.com rated Portland as the number one city for car theft per capita. While the sheer number of car thefts in Portland pale in comparison to larger cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, the impact of vehicle theft is worse here. On average, there are 250 thefts per 100,000 people in major cities; in Portland, that number is 487 thefts per 100,000 people. This means that a Portland resident is almost twice as likely to have their car stolen than residents of other cities.
Critics say that this is at least partly due to lax penalties for car theft. Car thieves are often released and back to stealing cars within hours of being caught if they're caught at all. With all the other issues facing Portland, car thefts are not high on the list of priorities for the Portland Police Bureau.
Which cars are most attractive to thieves?
Some cars are more attractive to thieves than others. A June 2021 report by the City of Portland Police Bureau noted that the most frequently stolen vehicles in Portland are:
- Honda Civic
- Honda Accord
- Honda CRV
- Subaru Legacy
- Ford F250
- Subaru Forrester
- Subaru Imprezza
- Toyota Camry
- Ford F350
Older models are easier to steal and are more at risk than newer cars with computerized car locks.
Cars are most likely to be stolen between 6 p.m. and midnight. The top neighborhoods for car thefts are Hazelwood, Lents, Powellhurst-Gilbert, Parkrose, Montavilla, Centennial, Culley, and Northwest.
What should you do if your car is stolen?
If you come out to find your car stolen, don't call 911. The emergency line is only for crimes in progress. Calls should go to the Non-Emergency Line at 503-833-3333. You must call the line, the Portland Police do not accept online reports of stolen vehicles. When you call, be ready to provide all pertinent information including:
- Your license plate number
- Your vehicle identification (VIN) number
- Your name as listed on the title
- Your address
- Your identification information
- A thorough description of your vehicle
- The exact location of where you last saw your car
After taking your report, the Portland Police's policy on stolen car reports states that they will "immediately" report the theft to the Auto Records Desk who will "immediately" enter the information into the databases of the Law Enforcement Data Systems (LEDS) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
Be sure to immediately report the theft to your car insurance company and the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles.
Thieves generally are stealing cars either for parts or for limited term use. In about 76% of cases, a stolen car is located within thirty days. The condition of the car is another issue, however, as cars are often stripped or damaged.
Be aware that if your car is discovered by the Portland Police Bureau they will likely have it towed to impound where the owner will be charged impound and storage fees.
Some Portlanders have had success locating their stolen vehicles by posting photos on social media sites like Next Door and Facebook. Neighbors also are increasingly posting pictures of cars that appear to be abandoned in an effort to help people reunite with their cars.
How can you reduce your risk of car theft in Portland?
It's inevitable that if you live in a city like Portland, eventually you'll be a victim of property crime. But there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk.
- Put your car in a garage when possible
- Never leave any bags or valuables in your car
- Park in well-lit areas
- Install a tracking system
- Don't leave a spare key on or near the vehicle
- Close your windows
- Lock your doors
- Be alert
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