Portland Police Expect Surge In Child Abuse Reports Post-Crisis

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
April 4, 2020 1 p.m.

Reports of child abuse have dropped dramatically in Portland in the last two weeks, according to the city’s police bureau.

The bureau held a call Friday afternoon with media outlets to discuss how officers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.


One major change? The bureau’s child abuse team has seen its caseload plummet. Before March 19, Sgt. Davis Kile said the city averaged between 40 and 50 reports of child abuse each day. He said that number is down to about 10 a day.

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Kile said many of the team’s cases get referred to them through the Child Abuse Hotline, often by teachers, child care workers and counselors. With schools closed and people confined to their homes, children at risk are no longer being monitored by these professionals, many of whom are designated mandatory reporters.

“We believe child abuse is still taking place,” Kile said, noting his unit anticipates a surge of cases after the state of emergency ends. PPB Spokesperson Tina Jones noted a similar phenomenon occurs when school starts back up after a holiday or summer vacation.


A similar trend has played out on a statewide level. According to Oregon’s Department of Human Services, reports of abuse and neglect have gone down by about 70%, compared with last month.

The bureau has noticed other unusual trends since Gov. Kate Brown’s stay at home order went into effect: speeding has increased and traffic crashes have declined. Collisions have dropped by about 30% since schools closed, said Chief Jami Resch, while there’s been an uptick in people going 20 or more miles over the speed limit.

“That’s something we don’t usually see a lot of,” Resch said. “Driving that speed any time, any day is just dangerous — whether there’s one person on the road or a hundred people on the road.”

Resch said domestic violence calls are up about 15% from the three weeks prior to the governors' stay at home order. That's a difference, she said, of about eight or 10 calls. Meanwhile, suicide calls have decreased. Two weeks ago, the chief raised alarms that officers was seeing a rise in calls related to suicide.

“What I hope for is that people are realizing that there's resources out there, that the information that we did put out is helpful to people who are in need,” Resch said.

The bureau has encouraged people looking for help to connect with Multnomah County's mental health crisis intervention line or Lines For Life.

The executive director of Sunshine Division, a nonprofit that partners with the police bureau to provide emergency food and clothing, said on Friday’s call that the group’s seeing four times its usual demand for food.

“It’s people from all walks of life,” said Kyle Camberg. “It's people who have recently lost their job. It’s caretakers. It's people my age who maybe have parents that are in their 70s and older that are worried about not allowing them to get out of the house.”

Camberg said the nonprofit has begun delivering free food boxes to anyone in Portland and Gresham unable to leave their home, with sign ups available here.