[ Photo by Shawn Carpenter via creative commons license. ]
When Antionette "Annie" Wonsey began renting out rooms via Airbnb, police officers patrolling her Chicago neighborhood of Englewood reportedly stopped her white guests because they were in a dangerous area [ full coverage of Annie's story starts here ].
Clearly, deal-seekers should research neighborhood safety as they narrow down their choices on Airbnb. LAUNCH found five Airbnb rentals in popular tourist destinations you might want to investigate further before hitting the "book it" button. It's worth noting that these hosts haven't marketed their residences well: poorly staged photos, not enough photos and less-than-inspiring descriptions. In fact, they could all learn something from Annie's Airbnb page.
Note: We used data from local law enforcement agencies and Neighborhood Scout's 2010 report to assess safety. We also checked customer reviews for comments on a neighborhood's vibe -- but most of the places we listed didn't have any reviews, and nearly all hosts had joined Airbnb this summer.
Neighborhood: North Las Vegas
Two of the five most dangerous neighborhoods nationwide are in Las Vegas. This $35 rental on Airbnb -- a private room in an apartment -- is conveniently located in one of them, the area around Balzar Ave. near Martin Luther King Blvd. Statistically, here you have a 1-in-8 chance of being the victim of a crime. It's also not much cheaper than a Best Western downtown.
Host Dwight D., who joined Airbnb in June 2011, does not include a photo of himself. Also, his place has no reviews, and that faded couch in a green-carpeted room? Yeah, not very inviting. If you want that free wine, help yourself to the half-empty bottle in the kitchen, it's next to the coffeemaker (as shown in one of Dwight's photos).
Neighborhood: Mission District
San Francisco attracts about 16M visitors annually each year, but even a neighborhood where tourists regularly stay has pockets where one should exercise a little more caution.
This jerry-rigged private bedroom in the city's Mission District looks comfortalbe if cluttered and costs just $42 a night -- with a required minimum of 14 days. But it's in an area where more than 660 violent crimes have been reported this year and gang violence is rising. You might want to splurge and try the basic-but-decent Aida Plaza Hotel on Market St.
Host Dan R., who joined Airbnb in April 2011, has not been reviewed, but his profile pic shows a friendly face and a guy who loves his mom. A post from a friend on Airbnb, Andrew K., says "Dan is the best darn host I know. He'll take care of you like none other."
New York City
Neighborhood: Brighton Beach
In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach, next door to Coney Island and referred to as "Little Odessa" because of its large Russian immigrant population, there have been more than 319 violent crimes (murder, rape and felony assault) this year and 412 reported misdemeanor assaults and sex crimes -- 16% and 11%, respectively, over 2010.
Host Adele K. joined in August 2011 and chose a photo of the boardwalk instead of herself (hmmm). She charges $50 a night for a private room and $30 a night for a shared room. That's a deal considering a Days Inn in Brooklyn runs at least $100 a night. Between the time we snapped a screen shot and time we published this piece, however, Adele had changed the listing photo -- and now you have to go to her host page to see photos of the rooms (decent, clean). One of her two reviewers notes, "Safe and many shops close by, I had a good time there for sure!"
Neighborhood: Brightwood/Manor Park
This $64 rental from Allison J. is in the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's Fourth District, a solidly residential yet rough part of the city's upper NW quadrant where more than 422 violent crimes have been reported in 2011. There have also been more than 11 murders -- a 120% increase compared to the same time period last year -- 32 sexual abuse crimes and 238 robberies, of which more than 30% occurred with a gun. It all makes a room at the Washington Plaza Hotel (in a neighborhood that used to be fairly dicey) pretty attracticve.
Here you get a private room and a pullout sofa, but there are no pictures of the actual room, only a sideways one of what appears to be an outside window. Allison J., who joined Airbnb in July 2011, appears charming in a bridesmaid-type dress but has not received any reviews.
Compton, on the South Side of Los Angeles, was once synonymous with violent crime because of its high murder rate. This $60 Airbnb rental in Compton by Aliet M. touts its quiet street and 15-minute drive to the beach. Although it's the nicest room on this list (very spacious, not "spaciuos"), it's not much of a bargain considering hotels at LAX go for $75 and up.
Despite its reputation, Compton has actually experienced a five-year criminal homicide decrease of nearly 30%. But there have already been 17 murders in 2011. Between Feb. 25 and Aug. 25 of this year there were 59 assaults -- 31 with a deadly weapon -- and 25 robberies. Compton is still only safer than 11% of other cities in the entire nation, according to Neighborhood Scout data.
Aliet M., who joined Airbnb in November 2010, has yet to receive any reviews for her private room with a real bed (and teddy bears).
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