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Top Vic cop warns of Airbnb-enabled crime wave

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In what has to have been one of the worst weeks for Airbnb since short-term online holiday letting  landed on these shores, we’ve had two prime examples of exactly why the Victorian government’s laissez-faire approach to the issue has been, and will continue to be, an utter disaster for apartment residents.

The most obvious recent event was the party where a 15-year-old was able to rent an apartment online through Airbnb, according to police, and then use the internet to invite all and sundry to it.

According to this story in the Age, about 200 teenagers turned up. Even worse, when the cops arrived to shut the event down, a bunch of them went on a crime spree, robbing locals at knife-point as they left the scene.

Meanwhile, criminals are using Airbnb bookings, and being invited in by holiday guests, to breach buildings’ security and rob owners in other units – often when they are at home – as well as stealing from cars, has been dubbed “an emerging crime trend” by Victoria’s acting Assistant Police Commissioner Tim Hansen.

According to this story, also in the Age,  Mr Hansen said last week aggravated burglaries linked to short-stay apartments were on the rise with thieves booking Airbnb-style accommodation in Melbourne CBD high-rise buildings in order to rob other apartments.

“People are coming and going and they’re taking the opportunity to commit burglaries on neighbouring premises or to steal things in carparks or whatever,” he told Age reporters. “[Offenders] are taking advantage of vulnerability because there is no on-site security.”

Recent reports have included:

  • Residents in a city apartment complex woken by knocking on their doors and a man checking door handles.
  • Two apartments on two different floors broken into while the occupants were sleeping inside.
  • In last Sunday’s incident, a resident called police at 3.20am and again at 7am, because of suspicious activity. In the hours between, two aggravated burglaries occurred.
  • One apartment was broken while two women were asleep inside. A wallet, bank cards and cash were stolen.
  • Another apartment was broken into and valuable items like wallets and passports were taken from rooms in which male and female occupants were sleeping.
  • It’s believed the offenders used the fire escapes to access other floors.

Acting assistant commissioner Hansen said police were working with the body corporates of at-risk buildings to try and beef-up the security  by having overnight concierges, on-site security and electronically restricted access.

He added that police were expecting more trouble in the summer months from out-of-control parties in short-stay rentals.

Next year, Victoria’s when-the-horse-has-bolted  laws will allow apartment owners whose lives have been disrupted by holiday lets to seek damages of up to $2000.

But they won’t allow residents to charge STHL hosts for the additional measures, like concierges, key cards and cameras,  needed to prevent burglaries and home invasions.

And will they put a price on the loss of a sense of security in your own home?

Resistance to Airbnb in residential buildings can no longer be dismissed as a Nimby whinge. These are our homes and it’s time the Victorian government got a grip and started looking after apartment residents rather than lining the pockets of their trendy mates in the online letting agencies.

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