Great Airbrnb in an unsafe area. Should I mention it?
November 7, 2016 11:12 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I recently visited Kansas City and stayed at an Airbnb. The accommodations were great, the hosts were friendly, and our overall experience was very positive. However, the area nearby that they told us was safe is not safe (in fact, I heard a shooting there overnight). Do we mention this in our review?

On one hand, these people were great; their house was nice and they were very friendly an accommodating. However, in addition to the shooting that I heard (and I confirmed it by reading the paper the next day; it was less than a mile away from us, in in the heart of the entertainment district), it turns out that there is one violent crime there every four days (my girlfriend looked this up) and there have been shootings in the same area once the previous two months as well.

When we asked about safety, the host told us that it was fine as long as we were street-smart. He specifically mentioned this area as a place to go to to get dinner, so I consider it likely that he'll do the same with future guests. What responsibility do I have to make potential guests aware of this danger? I don't want to kill the hosts' Airbnb business, which seems possible if I mention shootings in a review.

This is in the Old Westport area of Kansas City, if that provides any useful context.
posted by Fister Roboto to Human Relations (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would. I mean, the reviews are there for informing other guests about the property, and this is pertinent info that the owner is either oblivious to or actively denying.

I would say that accommodations are great, but the entertainment district didn't seem like a safe place to you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:17 AM on November 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think this is kind of subjective. There have been a few shootings in/near my neighborhood in the ~5 years I've lived there, and I don't consider it unsafe; I don't hesitate to walk around after dark, for instance.

As for the "one violent crime every four days" statistic, I'm not sure how predictive of safety that is either. If the violent crimes in question are street/sidewalk robberies, then, yeah, that's pretty bad. On the other hand, if they are mostly assault & battery between parties known to each other, that wouldn't seem to pose much of a risk to visitors or passers-by...
posted by Juffo-Wup at 11:21 AM on November 7, 2016 [33 favorites]

I'd mention it too, in addition to your positive experiences of the accommodations themselves. Most people using an Airbnb won't know the neighborhood, and that's definitely a pertinent thing I'd want to know. Maybe don't say "con: there was an actual shooting while we stayed there" but something like "this area is not as safe as you might expect after dark" would be helpful.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:22 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think your expectations for safety are not universal. I have spent time in Westport and it seemed pretty safe to me. Likewise, to me, one violent crime every four days in a nightlife-heavy neighborhood of a good-sized city seems very low. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a spot in a city of that size and density in the US which has not had a shooting within a mile in, say, the last year.

If you must make claims about the area's safety in your review, I would be specific about your concerns rather than simply claiming that the area is "unsafe," so that people whose threshold of safety differs from yours can make their own decisions.
posted by enn at 11:23 AM on November 7, 2016 [55 favorites]

"Not as safe as [I/you] expect" is meaningless and possibly fear mongering. Post links to crime stats if you'd like to help other people come up with an unbiased perspective.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:34 AM on November 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

I agree that safety is subjective, but I'd still mention it. Everything else in a review is subjective (e.g. hospitality and cleanliness) and I don't see why safety is any different. A review is always subjective to a certain degree and I'd want to know if the place I was considering was considered unsafe by some. As a reviewer, I'd try to be as objective as possible - not categorizing it as dodgy or sketchy - just sticking to what you heard/saw/how you felt walking around. I might leave out the crime stats because anyone can look those up, and you're not making a case - you're describing your experience. A prospective renter should take others' opinions and evaluate them for what they are - a mix of fact and opinion. I think it's perfectly acceptable as long as you don't overgeneralize and you're sure to emphasize the positive aspects of your experience there.
posted by onecircleaday at 11:37 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would want to know whether you actually had personal cause to feel unsafe (being closely followed/catcalled/intimidated verbally or physically) , not the general crime figures. If your basis for danger is 1 violent crime every 4 days, then we have a vastly differing definition of dangerous area.

As someone who lives in an area that is a byword throughout the UK for "dangerous crime-ridden area" I'm always fairly skeptical about this stuff though.
posted by threetwentytwo at 11:38 AM on November 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Saying that that nearby street is safe if you are "street smart" seems like it might be a reasonable compromise, especially if you mention a safer alternative area.
posted by amtho at 11:42 AM on November 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: My personal cause for not feeling safe was waking up to gunfire and police sirens at 3AM, and then reading that there had been similar shootings in each of the previous two months.

Honestly, until then, the area did seem pretty safe. It's only when we started looking at other violent crime in the area that we began to feel reluctant about going back there later on in our visit.

I live in a city too, and one that has a fair amount of violence in it, but I've never had a shooting that close to where I was sleeping and where I was the night before. This is what gave me pause and led me to consider the responsibility that I had to communicate this to potential guests where I was staying.
posted by Fister Roboto at 11:43 AM on November 7, 2016

Not long ago we rented an apartment in a part of Paris that several reviewers described pretty much exactly as you propose describing this one. It was wonderful. There was a man quietly selling hashish on the corner and there was a small fight under our window one night. I never once felt even vaguely threatened or out of place. I guess it's telling that in a way it made it feel to me like a community I was a part of for my time there and somewhat nostalgic for my time living in a city.

Not that anyone does or should care what random other Airbnb users think of them, but I chalked the "neghborhood-ist" reviews as some basically innocuous combination of stuffy, racist (one felt it necessary to specify that it was an "immigrant neighborhood"), and unsavvy. None of the reviews were actually negative overall.

So, I guess, yeah, be honest. If it's the kind of thing that will scare some people off those people should know, but there are plenty of us who are used to that kind of thing and think nothing of navigating it. More Paris apartments for us!
posted by cmoj at 11:49 AM on November 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Everyone has their own sense of what is/is not safe, and frankly if you skew to the low-risk end of that distribution, you should be looking up crime rates before you visit, not after. Like, personally, my tolerance for this kind of stuff is pretty low* so I do some investigating before I book accommodations in a city I'm unfamiliar with.

It might be okay to say, towards the end of your otherwise positive review, something like: "FYI, we were woken up around 3am by a shooting and some sirens, so may not be the best neighborhood for light sleepers or folks who aren't comfortable in the city." I wouldn't call the rental or the neighborhood "unsafe" as if by some objective measure.

* I grew up in the country, where everyone left their houses unlocked and their keys in the car in the (also unlocked) garage. I've lived in DC for over 8 years now, and still haven't fully adjusted.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:53 AM on November 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

You can always just say your visit was disturbed by gunfire and sirens. That is factual. One shooting a month would not make me blink, frankly, but I live in one of the most violent cities in the US so it's not necessarily great or reasonable that I would be nonplussed.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:53 AM on November 7, 2016 [10 favorites]

Calling an neighborhood "unsafe" may seem rather offensive to the people who live there since it comes with the implication that they are to be feared. And the crime stats won't necessarily paint an accurate picture of what it's like to live or visit the area. E.g., gun violence is approaching record levels in Chicago—statistics that could put people off from visiting the City. In truth, unless you're in a gang (or, perhaps, a few unfortunate neighborhoods, which are very far off the tourist path), you aren't likely to be affected.

If you're going to mention anything, stick to personal stores about what you experienced.
posted by she's not there at 11:54 AM on November 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Safety is very subjective; given what you describe, I would consider that neighborhood perfectly safe for an area near nightlife/entertainment. According to NextDoor, there's a shooting within a mile of my house about once a week, and I consider my neighborhood quite safe, and wouldn't hesitate to tell visitors that they're safe as long as they pay attention to their surroundings.

If you want walkability to attractions, you almost always move into an area with more crime. Street crime doesn't happen where there's no one on the street, which is what you get with primarily-residential neighborhoods where there's nothing to walk to.

If you're going to mention that you found it unsafe (which you're perfectly right to do - reviews are subjective, as mentioned above), I'd recommend being clear about what you found unsafe (e.g. woke up at 3 am due to sirens and gunfire that sounded about a mile away), and let others determine whether they're comfortable with that or not.
posted by Jaclyn at 11:54 AM on November 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think future renters can look up these same statistics if they so desire. They don't need it presented through the filter of one individual previous renter.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:55 AM on November 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would just use subjective language, like "I felt unsafe because...".
posted by phreckles at 12:00 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm with Jaclyn: you can share what happened, but calling a neighborhood unsafe because you heard shots is a subjective judgment call. Nothing bad happened to you, and it sounds like you didn't actually feel unsafe while you were there and wandering around in the area.

For what it's worth, I'm from the KC area and I wouldn't label Westport as unsafe. My parents let us hang out there as teenagers and they were not especially permissive. It's a normal city neighborhood.
posted by something something at 12:06 PM on November 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

"When we asked about safety, the host told us that it was fine as long as we were street-smart."

This is a very clear way for the host to tell you that you're not staying in Mayberry and crime happens. I think most people staying in that Airbnb would take the host's meaning and not feel misled.
posted by cakelite at 12:09 PM on November 7, 2016 [32 favorites]

Sometimes I see reviews which I find unhelpful because they present their judgement (unsafe!) without their criteria, and present it as a decision they've made on behalf of everyone (so terrifying - I don't know how anyone can sleep at night!)

Especially if you phrase your review so that it doesn't imply that either the hosts or guests who feel comfortable there are being somehow naive/unaware/irresponsible, it makes sense to post the facts and how you felt.
posted by aimedwander at 12:12 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

If I read in an AirBNB review that there was a shooting a mile away, I'd consider that more a reflection on the writer than on the apartment.
posted by entropone at 12:17 PM on November 7, 2016 [22 favorites]

That level of "unsafe" would not make me even blink before booking it, so I agree with everyone about being specific about what you heard (gunfire and sirens from an incident a mile away) and not making blanket judgments about what is or isn't dangerous or what other people will tolerate.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:18 PM on November 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

A lot of stuff happens in Westport. You just happened to hear one of the bad bits while you were there. It's purely chance. The only place I've been close enough to gunfire to smell the smoke was at Yonge & Bloor in Toronto: about the safest place to be a tourist in North America.
posted by scruss at 12:24 PM on November 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Nothing wrong with writing your impressions and what you felt but I know that if I lived somewhere with one shooting per month in a total area of one square mile from my home I would consider myself to live in a safe neighborhood.
posted by Cosine at 12:36 PM on November 7, 2016

I would not feel freaked out by what you describe since there are gunshots periodically in my own neighborhood. Therefore, if you want to share this, I would be very specific and avoid subjectivity in your description.
posted by latkes at 12:38 PM on November 7, 2016

Nthing everyone else -- "unsafe" is a subjective judgment. Just write that you awoke at 3am to gunfire and sirens, and let the potential renter make their own call.

FWIW, if you'd woken up to gunfire and *no* police sirens, that would be much worse. (I lived in a rough place in North Philly and had this happen many times during my 3 or so years living there.)
posted by nosila at 12:38 PM on November 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think this is kind of subjective. There have been a few shootings in/near my neighborhood in the ~5 years I've lived there, and I don't consider it unsafe; I don't hesitate to walk around after dark, for instance.

As for the "one violent crime every four days" statistic, I'm not sure how predictive of safety that is either. If the violent crimes in question are street/sidewalk robberies, then, yeah, that's pretty bad. On the other hand, if they are mostly assault & battery between parties known to each other, that wouldn't seem to pose much of a risk to visitors or passers-by...

Ditto this: my city, the safest large city in Canada (a country of safe large cities), has been having a rash of stabbings this year that have largely taken place less than 1 km from my place nearly every weekend and sometimes also mid-week and sometimes just a block or two away. But these are pretty much all stabbings of people known to each other/gang-related and not any kind of random stabbings. I would laugh until I fell over if someone suggested my city wasn't safe.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:00 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

please contact the host first and ask them to re-word their description. if they don't, write the facts and also a statement that you thought the hosts should have given a better heads up. if they do re-word it, still, by all means state the facts in your review. I would want to know the facts.

Airbnb reviews are based on whether a host describes the place accurately. I Airbnb in a place with grizzlies, mountain lions, moose. and I struggle with how to describe it. I guess I'm just saying give your hosts a little help with this. it's not easy. you don't want to freak people out of course with something you feel is normal. there's a fine line.
posted by cda at 1:56 PM on November 7, 2016

I've lived in areas that were very dangerous, just sort of sketchy, and barely dangerous at all, and I would still like to know that you heard shots and sirens in the middle of the night. I would stick to your personal experience though, rather than making broad generalizations. So I would say that you felt a little unsafe after you heard gunshots and sirens at 3 am and stay away from statements like, "This neighborhood is unsafe," because--personally--I read that sort of statement as coded racism rather than helpful information about a neighborhood.

Also, if people from outside the U.S are looking at that AirBnB listing, they may be a bit less blasé about the presence of nearby gunfire than the Americans in this thread--which is another reason to mention it.
posted by colfax at 2:27 PM on November 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

I live in a very sedate, safe neighborhood in a safe city and when I read the police blotter for my own local precinct, I'm shocked by how much is going on around me with me unaware. If I didn't have my own extensive experience to judge by, I'd probably get a different impression if I read crime reports to get an impression of the neighborhood. I'd mention that the nightlife district nearby is probably better suited to someone with some street smarts, but mentioning a random crime event that occurred in an adjacent entertainment district area is not the most fair, IMO. It's not like your Airbnb was in the middle of some kind of extended violent crime wave.
posted by quince at 4:09 PM on November 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a Kansas City native, I am both surprised and not surprised to hear this was Westport.

When things happen, they happen at the bars, is my hazy impression.

Dinner seems like a safer time of day. There are definitely different parts of the KC Metro that I'd only go to at certain times of day, and part of that has to do with potential safety and part of that has to do with what they have on offer.
posted by RainyJay at 11:26 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mention it, but maybe give a more direct distance of the shooting. 3/4 mile away is a loooonng way away in a city for shootings, 3-4 blocks is not (but I live in phila).
posted by WeekendJen at 8:06 AM on November 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

As an airbnb host in the area adjacent to Westport, I would say that as a guest you should do your research before you travel. I'm pretty sure if you looked up the crime statistics for any major city in the US you would see similar and likely worse statistics. If that makes you scared, you might consider visiting Idaho or Montana as it's very safe there. My guests are advised to not walk alone after dark and to be aware of their surroundings as it is the city. We're located 2 blocks from Westport and walk there several times a week and have never encountered an issue. We've hosted over 140 guests this year and none of them has experienced any issue either. Is there crime? Yes. Is it reason to scare off other guests? NO! You should keep your rating to the home you stayed in since you chose the area.
posted by hostesswiththemostess at 8:06 AM on November 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Following up: Kansas City has these very dense, close together neighborhood clusters. It goes from good to bad within the blink of an eye; I usually identify areas by the absolute closest major intersection within a specific neighborhood. Westport on a weekday at lunchtime is different from Westport on a weekend when the bars open (and I think they still block off the streets so it's basically just foot traffic for the bars).

Just from your description alone, I'm trying to figure out which direction you were staying in, because a mile from Old Westport to the south is completely different than a mile to the east. Where was the shooting really located?
posted by RainyJay at 11:37 PM on November 8, 2016

Response by poster: RainyJay, the shooting took place at Westport and Mills. So, basically in the middle of the nightlife district.

We were staying at a place on West 39th Terrace.

I'm not terribly familiar with KC's neighborhoods, so I might have made a mistake when stating the neighborhood that we were staying in or where the shooting occurred.
posted by Fister Roboto at 2:26 PM on November 9, 2016

Hi! I'm British. I stay in hotels and AirBnB's in different countries. I expect to be able to walk to a restaurant or a bar and home again, nearing midnight, without risking attack. If that's not the case, I really need to be warned, because "street-smart" where I live means making sure I don't let my handbag get out of my sight, not "sure, we have shootings here, don't walk after dark".

I have never in my life heard a shooting, and yeah, it would freak me out and make me feel unsafe and scared.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:20 PM on November 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

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