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Why do some crimes increase when Airbnbs come to town?

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Wired, July 2021

The presence of more Airbnbs in a neighborhood may be linked to more crime—but not in the way you might think. Researchers from Northeastern University reviewed data in Boston from 2011 to 2018, a period of both sustained growth in Airbnb listings and growing concerns about crime. They found that certain violent crimes—fights, robberies, reports of someone wielding a knife—tended to increase in a neighborhood a year or more after the number of Airbnbs increased—a sign, the researchers said, of a fraying social order.

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

Curiously, the researchers found that reports of crime did not increase at the same time that Airbnbs in a neighborhood increased, suggesting that the tourists staying in those rentals were neither committing crimes nor attracting crimes.

“It’s not the visitors themselves that’s the problem, it’s the fact that you took a bunch of units that normally would have functioning, contributing members of a community off of the social network,” O’Brien says.

Continue reading at Wired.

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