A man stands accused of using the home-rental site Airbnb to scout and then burglarize a Mountain View home in a style of crime that police now say is a trend across the Bay Area this just weeks after this guy did the same thing in Piedmont. The Chronicle reports that the new technique involves booking and then canceling a reservation — but only after valuable information has been learned about the home and its occupants.
According to the Mountain View Police, 35-year-old David Lefevre rented a Calderon Avenue home in early August. They allege he canceled the reservation at the last minute, and that shortly after the house was broken into and items were stolen.
Soon after that on August 11, the homeowner notified police that he received a call saying someone had opened a credit account in his name and was about to pick up a new iPhone at an AT&T store. Police arrested Lefevre at the store, and a bunch of items stolen from the Airbnb were found in his trunk. Mountain View police say he was "arrested on charges of residential burglary, possession of stolen property, identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and possession of another’s identity to commit identity theft."
Airbnb, apparently, has become a go-to way for would-be criminals to decide who they're going to rob. Police warn that when homeowners inform future renters that certain areas of the house will remain off-limits, they are essentially telegraphing to potential thieves where valuables are stored. In addition, if you let your renter know where a hidden key is located, and that person cancels at the last minute, that person then still knows how to get into the home.
Crimes like this have been the fear among the Airbnb-averse from the get-go there is, after all, a fair level of trust one has to have in their fellow humans to use the service in the first place, and/or you should probably be wary of guests who don't come with a bunch of great reviews. Last August, one Airbnb guest in San Francisco broke into a locked room in one woman's home and made off with $35,000 worth of stuff. Airbnb's comment at the time, as it would be in most of these circumstances, was, "Over 45 million hosts and guests have had positive experiences on Airbnb and situations like this are incredibly rare. When they do happen, we work quickly to make things right."
MVPD calls this is "a new crime trend occurring in the Bay Area," before adding that "[we] are not trying to discourage residents from renting out their homes, but we want everyone to be safe while doing so."