Hello from Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC -- and not much warmer than Philadelphia in January :-).
The SIGCSE 2008 team has been quite busy now that registration is open and the conference is just weeks away. Tony Clear, our International Liaison, noted that all visitors to the conference would benefit from information about safety and security in Portland around the Oregon Convention Center and the conference hotels. Yeah, a bit uncomfortable to think about, until you consider the alternative ....
So, Tammy VanDeGrift, our Local Arrangements Chair, provided some guidance that I'll share here -- this is not to replace such things as awareness, traveling in groups, and commonsense.
Here are the "safe" places near downtown and the convention center:
Downtown: Close to the hotel is safe
The waterfront is safe (park along the river for walking/jogging)
Shopping district is safe (near Pioneer Place)
Pearl District is safe (lots of condos, cafes, restaurants, the "newest" yuppie part of downtown)
Convention Center: Close to convention center is safe
Near Lloyd Center (shopping mall) is safe during mall hours (closes at 9 PM)
Along Broadway and Weidler Streets is safe during shopping hours (until 9 PM)
Less safe areas (at night):
MLK Blvd, Williams, Vancouver Streets (north of convention center)
East side of river (near OMSI)
Chinatown (downtown), lots of homeless shelters nearby - may not be unsafe, but pan-handling could be distracting
Under the Burnside Bridge (homeless camps at night)
Gresham (along MAX stops, but this town is a suburb and I doubt anyone would venture out here)
Portland is generally a safe place, with very few incidents. I have never felt uncomfortable walking around at night downtown, but I would suggest that people walk with at least one other person
For the record, Susan and I have visited Portland without incident -- we walked across the Burnside Bridge one evening and did pass a number of homeless, so we will just take the MAX or walk another bridge in the future.