Identify the impact of Airbnb ads on neighborhood crime

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A new study on the effects of Airbnb ads on Boston neighborhoods suggests that the prevalence of ads may hamper local social dynamics that prevent crime. However, tourists themselves do not appear to generate or attract higher levels of crime. Babak Heydari, Daniel T. O’Brien and Laiyang Ke of Northeastern University in Boston, MA, USA present these results in the open access journal PLOS ONE July 14, 2021.

There is a general feeling that Airbnb ads are causing increased crime in residential neighborhoods. However, little research has been done to explore and clarify this link.

To better understand the relationship between Airbnb ads and crime, Heydari and his colleagues performed a statistical analysis of ads and data on different types of crime (using categories of 911 calls) in Boston, MA. Covering a period from 2011 to 2017, they focused on two mechanisms by which the presence of short-term rentals could increase crime. First, tourists themselves can generate or attract crime. Second, the presence of Airbnb listings can disrupt local social dynamics which would normally mitigate or prevent crime.

The researchers found that the prevalence of Airbnb ads in a given neighborhood was linked to higher rates of violence, but not to public social unrest or private conflict. Moreover, this link did not appear immediately after the advertisements were made available to tourists, but rather appeared and developed over several years.

These findings, particularly the lag in the increase in violence, suggest that Airbnb tourists themselves are not causing or attracting more crime. Instead, an increased proportion of a neighborhood’s housing converted to short-term housing can gradually erode local social dynamics, leading to increased violence.

These findings could help city planners and policymakers make more informed decisions about the impact of Airbnb ads on neighborhoods. These results could also be useful for platform companies to create more effective platform governance and self-regulation mechanisms. Future research could explore whether similar results are seen in other cities, including those with differences in size or demographics. Additional studies could also investigate other facets of the presence of Airbnb listings in neighborhoods.

Heydari says: “We show that it is not the number of Airbnb tourists who stay in a neighborhood that causes an increase in criminal activity, but it is the creation of transitional properties spread across a neighborhood that undermines social organization and social capital and over time and can cause disorder and the resulting criminal activity.

Heydari adds, ‚ÄúThis article is one of the first to measure the causal social impact of neighborhood-level sharing platforms for short-term rental platforms. [and] quantifies the causal effect of short-term rentals on criminal activity and disturbance in neighborhoods. Most important, [this paper] identifies the mechanism at the origin of these effects. Identifying the causal mechanism enables more effective governance of these platforms, either through government regulations or by designing a self-regulatory mechanism by the platforms themselves. ”


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More information:
Ke L, T. O’Brien D, Heydari B (2021) Airbnb and neighborhood crime: the incursion of tourists or the erosion of local social dynamics? PLoS A 16 (7): e0253315. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0253315

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Quote: Tease the impact of Airbnb ads on neighborhood crime (2021, July 14) retrieved August 17, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-impact-airbnb-neighbourhood-crime.html

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