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Wild scenes after boy, 15, rented city unit via Airbnb

December 20, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

In another setback for the image of “sharing economy” short-term accommodation rentals, Melbourne police are investigating robbery and crime stemming from a string of wild parties in high-rise CBD apartments and other premises rented through Airbnb using stolen credit cards.

The issue surfaced last Friday when teens armed with knives robbed people in a suburban street in Melbourne’s west. They had spilled out of a party attended by up to 200 teenagers at a property rented by a 15-year-old boy through Airbnb, police allege.

Melbourne’s Age newspaper said the party had been advertised on Facebook. It turned into a violent crime spree in which people in nearby streets were robbed at knifepoint.

Police were seeking the offenders, who were “perceived to be of African appearance”, the paper said.

The report will not make apartment dwellers feel any safer or happier about residents renting out their units via sharing economy platforms. Airbnb users are meant to be at least 18 years old. A spokesman for Airbnb told the paper the boy who rented the property had since been banned permanently from the online platform.

“There have been over 400 million guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date and negative incidents like this are incredibly rare.”

The Age, however, has also reported that police are investigating a string of other Airbnb parties, some in properties rented using stolen credit cards.

A week earlier, residents in an inner-Melbourne apartment complex woke in fright in the early hours to find men checking door handles and knocking on doors. Apartments on two different floors were broken into while occupants were asleep. Up to three men “staying in a short-term rental” in the same complex were believed to be behind the home invasions. The reports indicate they may have used the rented apartment as a base to pillage other apartments.

Suspects were filmed on CCTV leaving the scene with their hands full of property.

A Victoria Police statement confirmed that police were called to an apartment complex on Spencer Street about 3.20am on Sunday 9 December, following reports of a man loitering in a corridor.

Victoria Police detectives have released images of three men they believe can assist with their inquiries. Photo: Victoria Police

 The Victoria Police statement said:

Investigators have been told the man was knocking on doors and checking door handles in an attempt to break into apartments.

 Police attended the apartment complex and spoke to the man, who said he was looking for a friend and had been locked out of his apartment. The man gave what is believed to be a false name and address to police. He was escorted out of the building about 4.30am.

 Police were called to the apartment building again about 6am Sunday, following reports of a man trying to enter the building via the communications system on the ground floor.

 When police arrived, they spoke to the man who was then accompanied by two other males, who stated they were just leaving the building.

 Melbourne Crime Investigation Unit is investigating two aggravated burglaries that occurred in the building on Sunday morning.

 Detectives have been told an apartment on the 15th floor was broken into sometime between 1am and 7am. A wallet, bank cards and quantity of cash were stolen from the apartment while two females were asleep inside the bedroom. 

Detectives are also investigating an aggravated burglary that occurred on the 3rd floor sometime between 6 and 7am. 

It is believed a man entered the apartment and stole headphones, a wallet and shoes from the living room while a man was asleep on the couch.

 The man then went into a bedroom where a male and female victim were asleep and stole a number of items including a passport, wallet, keys and shoes.

 None of the occupants were physically injured during the incidents.

 Detectives have released images of three men they believe can assist with their inquiries. The men are perceived to be African in appearance, aged in their late teens or early 20s. [See images above.]

 The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.gov.au.

A separate very serious incident took place in July in the EQ tower, a Melbourne high-rise building dominated by Airbnb lettings. Two teenagers have been charged over the murder of Laa Chol, a 19-year-old woman who was reportedly stabbed during a dispute at a party there.

The deceased was part of a group of of African Australians who had rented a short-term stay apartment in the building, when another group of African Australians arrived and a row broke out between the two groups.

The Age reported at the time that Airbnb had confirmed Laa Chol’s death occurred in a short-stay apartment leased through its platform.

Written by Peter Needham

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