PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland police officers increased the number of traffic stops in 2023’s second quarter versus the year’s first quarter by nearly 25%, according to data released by the bureau. However, the number of traffic stops for 2023’s second quarter still lags behind the same time period in 2019, before the pandemic and social unrest of 2020.
In the second quarter of this year, the Portland Police Bureau’s Strategic Services Division reported that officers made 4,401 traffic stops. For the second quarter of 2019, this number was nearly double — at 8,569 recorded stops.
Although PPB’s traffic stops were cut in half from the second quarter of 2019 compared to the second quarter of 2023, officers recorded a surge from the first quarter to the second quarter of this year.
Authorities said there were about 3,527 traffic stops from January through March during 2023’s first quarter, compared to the 4,401 from April through June this year. By comparison, the first quarter of 2019 saw 8,114 traffic stops, according to the data.
According to PPB spokesperson Lt. Nathan Sheppard, there are several factors that contribute to the significant decrease comparing 2023’s data to 2019’s — one of them being the rise and fall of the Traffic Division.
Starting in 2021, the division went on a two-year hiatus due to staffing shortages. The Portland police previously said that was the most fatal year for pedestrian traffic fatalities in the city, but 2022 later broke the 70-year high.
Police Chief Chuck Lovell announced the return of the Traffic Division in May of this year. He said PPB remains understaffed, but the uptick in fatal crashes pushed the agency to bolster its traffic enforcement.
In the seven weeks following the division’s return, officers issued more than 1,800 citations and warnings — compared to the fewer than 750 that were issued in the seven weeks before.
“In the past, our Traffic Division has conducted the lion share of our traffic stops and enforcement, so there is likely a direct correlation between the number of stops and the size of our Traffic Division,” Lt. Sheppard added in an email to KOIN 6. “Additionally, our patrol officers are consistently being dispatched from call to call, with little time to address traffic concerns.”
The public information officer also noted recent changes in legislation. Signed into law in 2022, Senate Bill 1510 prohibits officers from stopping drivers for minor violations such as broken headlights or brake lights. The measure also requires officers to tell drivers they can refuse a search during a traffic stop.
“Also, society’s expectations — including on the subject of policing — has changed over the past few years, so there are many nuances to this answer,” Sheppard said.