Murder and mayhem may be on the rise in a number of big cities — but not in Portland, says The Oregonian. The rate of crimes such as robbery, rape, and murder now stands at a 40-year low. Reports of violent crimes in the past decade have plummeted 56 percent. Property crimes have decreased 33 percent since 1996. Social scientists and law enforcement experts say it is impossible to attribute success to any one reason because many factors influence the crime rate. No single city can claim the winning strategy. “What I call it is ‘the something big that nobody knows what it is,’ ” said Pamela Donovan, a criminologist at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.
Lynnae Berg, assistant chief of operations of the Portland police, cites factors including police work oriented to problem-solving, a healthy economy, and new laws controlling chemicals used to make methamphetamine. Everyone who discusses crime rates in Oregon mentions Measure 11, the 1995 state law that mandates minimum prison sentences to violent offenders. Howard Rodstein, policy analyst for Crime Victims United, a group instrumental in pushing Measure 11, sees the law as the most significant change over the past decade to impact crime rates. Rodstein points to a 2007 report by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, The report attributes every 2.6 percent drop in crime rate to every 10 percent rise in incarceration rate. Oregon’s incarceration rate has risen 38 percent since 1996.