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Police: Violent crime at record low levels

Despite a recent spate of high-profile crimes, including the skateboard beating of an elderly downtown worker by street kids, violent crimes is actually down in Portland, according to police.

The Portland Police Bureau released a report on Part I crime statistics Monday that shows crime continues reports are at levels not seen since the mid to late-1960s. Part I crimes are mostly violent crimes, such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson.

"We are pleased that Part I crimes continue at low levels," said Police Chief Mike Reese. "We measure Part I crime as every city in the country does, but it doesn't illustrate the whole picture. Today, officers are spending more time on social disorder, including responding to people with mental health issues, including suicides. Officers are responding to people with addiction issues, homelessness and general services failure. Most of these incidents don't make the news like crime does."

The report says that Portland's crime rate per 1,000 population in 2012 was 58, which is consistent with the mid-1960s.

In analyzing the last 50-plus years, the lowest crimes were in the early 1960s and the highest in the late 1980s.

Despite the decline in violent crime, many people continue to perceive it as higher, police say. A 2012 study by Portland State University found that Portlanders still have a perception that crime is rising, some due to their exposure of media.

Violent crime is also declining across the nation. Crime analysts suggest the decline can be attributed to many things, including: the fall in crack cocaine use; demographic shifts such as baby boomers aging; and better use of technology by police.

"Officers are doing great work out there," said Reese. "The examples of the community-police collaboration that has occurred at Albina and Killingsworth or 162nd and Burnside shows what kind of success we can have using this kind of approach. Its smarter policing and its working."

Mayor Charlie Hales praised the decline, saying, "Crime statistics are down, and that's to the credit of our Police Bureau and the community, working together for years and years, to change things for the better. That's part of the social contract we have between the police and the community. And it's proof that we're on the right track. Is there more to do? Obviously. Are we proud of these trends? Absolutely."

Despite the decline in Part I crimes, the Portland Police Bureau encourages community members to take measures to avoid becoming victims of crime. Police continue to warn the community not to leave valuables in their vehicles, lock-up bicycles, and ensure your home is secure, especially in Summer, where windows, doors and garages are often left open.