RTI researchers examined 911 call data in Portland and compared it to similar cities in neighboring states
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — New preliminary findings from RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, suggest that resident-initiated calls for service did not increase in Portland and generally followed the same trends as major cities in neighboring states after the implementation of Measure 110 in Oregon in February 2021. The ballot measure decriminalized non-commercial drug possession and increased funding for substance use disorder treatment and harm reduction services.
“Our findings do not support the premise that there has been a spike in in calls to law enforcement from Portland residents since the implementation of Measure 110,” said Hope Smiley-McDonald, Ph.D., a senior sociologist and director of the Investigative Sciences research program at RTI. “Sometimes perception is not reality when it comes to public policy and specifically drug decriminalization. This appears to be one of those cases. Since the treatment and harm reduction services were just funded in August 2022, more time is needed to see if the intended benefits of Measure 110 — which is to support people who have substance use disorder with health services — will be realized. We look forward to analyzing those data when they are available over the next year.”
The Arnold Ventures-supported research involved examining publicly available 911 call data to compare Portland to Boise, Sacramento, and Seattle between January 2018 and June 2022 — before and after Measure 110’s implementation.
Overall, trends in the call data in Portland were similar to the comparison cities, with no significant increases in people calling 911 after implementation of Measure 110. Data showed that Portland police did not respond to a noticeable increase in disorderly conduct calls and other disturbances after February 2021.
More specifically, Portland followed the same trend as Seattle for property crime-related calls, which were found to be at the same level in July 2022 as they were in July each of the three years before implementation of the ballot measure.
For calls related to drugs, alcohol, prostitution and gambling, Portland mirrored Sacramento — and both cities trailed Seattle in call volume on those issues by a substantial margin.
The research team also conducted qualitative interviews with 34 police officers, emergency medical services personnel, district attorney offices, and representatives from the community corrections, juvenile justice, and the treatment and harm reduction communities to better understand their perceptions of Measure 110’s impact in Oregon.
They found that people associated with criminal legal system perceived that crime had increased because of Measure 110’s implementation, while others tended to believe that any purported increases in crime could simply mirror trends in other communities and cities in the U.S.
Related Impact Story: Building the Evidence: Understanding the Impacts of Drug Decriminalization in Oregon