Why do some crimes increase when Airbnbs come to town?

The presence of After Airbnb in a neighborhood may be linked to more crime, but not in the way you might think.

Researchers at Northeastern University looked at data in Boston from 2011 to 2018, a period of sustained growth in Airbnb ads and growing concerns about crime. They found that some violent crimes – fights, thefts, reports of people wielding a knife – tended to increase in a neighborhood a year or more after the number of Airbnbs increased – a sign, researchers said, of a unraveling social order.

“You’re essentially eroding a neighborhood’s natural ability to deal with crime,” says Dan O’Brien, one of the authors. The study was published wednesday in PLOS A, an open access, peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.

Oddly enough, researchers found that crime reports did not increase as the number of Airbnbs in a neighborhood increased, suggesting that tourists staying at these rentals were not committing crimes or attracting crimes. .

“It’s not the visitors themselves that’s the problem, it’s the fact that you took a bunch of units that should normally have worked, contributing to community members outside of the social network,” O explains. ‘Brien.

Additionally, the researchers found that other types of crime, including noise complaints, public intoxication, domestic violence, and landlord-tenant conflict, were not increasing because more units in a neighborhood were listed on Airbnb.

Airbnb disputed the study’s methodology and conclusions. In a statement, a spokesperson said the researchers had come to “inaccurate conclusions not supported by evidence.”

The spokesperson asked if the researchers were controlling other factors, such as new housing construction and overall economic conditions. The spokesperson expressed concerns about generalizing the results from a single city to a larger national trend.

Additionally, the spokesperson said the researchers’ method of tracking new Airbnb listings was flawed because it relied on when a user “joined” the platform. The spokesperson said someone can register on the site as a guest but not become a host for years, making it difficult to keep track of ad changes over time.

To measure Airbnb’s impact, the researchers looked at the total number of listings in neighborhoods based on their degree of clustering on specific blocks. They divided “crime” into three categories: social unrest, private conflict and public violence.

Social unrest refers to complaints about noise, public intoxication, and general heckling often associated with tourists. O’Brien speculated that Airbnb’s minor impact on this definition of crime could be due to the fact that social unrest often occurs near bars and restaurants, which are typically found in the city center. , and not in more suburban or residential areas where Airbnb ads are concentrated.

Private disputes refer to domestic violence or landlord-tenant disputes, anything that indicates unrest inside the home. It also did not increase during the study period. But the third type of crime, public violence, did. These are fights, robberies, 911 reports from someone wielding a knife, and so on.

The article builds on existing sociological theories of social organization: the idea that a community of close-knit neighbors who know and trust each other establishes and enforces its own social norms, thereby reducing crime. Essentially, the researchers found that what lies behind the increase in violence is not the presence of tourists or visitors, but the absence long-term residents who are integrated into the community.

Above all, this dynamic takes time to appear. If the problem were simply the presence of rowdy tourists, crime would increase simultaneously with an increase in the number of visitors. Instead, the researchers found a lag – the violence tended to increase a year or two after enrollment increased.

“Every time we look at the shift further back it’s actually more impactful,” says O’Brien.

This “erosion” also ends up spreading from public to private: researchers note an increase in private violence that appears two years after an increase in registrations.

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