Why Does Crime Increase When Airbnbs Come to Town?

Why Does Crime Increase When Airbnbs Come to Town?
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

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.

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