No Crime Increases Seen With Casino Opening, But Charlestown Is Being Monitored

The first post-opening study on crime in surrounding communities potentially caused by Encore Boston Harbor showed mostly that the resort casino has generated little new crime outside of its footprint, though one of the few exceptions could be car breaks and thefts in Charlestown.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) has a very thorough legal requirement unlike most states to study how all of its gaming establishments have impacted crime in the surrounding communities. Professor Chris Bruce has been retained to study all of the facilities and report on crime impacts, and on Thursday, May 7, he unveiled his comprehensive report on Encore Boston Harbor’s effects from July 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2019 – the first six months of operations.

For the most part, crime did not seem to increase in any category in Everett – the host city – or most of the surrounding communities, with about three exceptions. One of those exceptions was in Charlestown where car breaks and thefts were on the increase and possibly could be connected to the casino.

“Charlestown was the only neighborhood to see an increase in theft from vehicles right in the residential areas of Charlestown,” said Bruce. “Auto theft in Charlestown was also up. That is something we will continue to monitor to see if there is a connection as time goes on.”

For thefts from vehicles, there was a 45 incident average prior to Encore for Charlestown, but there were 59 incidents reported in the six-month study period. Most of those came in November and December, Bruce said.

There were 31 thefts from vehicles in November and December throughout the residential areas of the Town, from Allston Street to Hays Square to the streets near Monument Square.

“November and December brought a pattern of thefts from cars to the residential streets in the neighborhood, with report times suggesting largely daytime occurrences, particularly on Fridays,” read the report.

He said more investigation will be needed over time to determine if these are connected to the casino or whether they were simply an unrelated spike over the holidays.

There was a slight uptick in auto theft as well in the Monument Square area in September and October, with 17 incidents reported in the study period. Most of those occurred during the afternoon on weekdays. It wasn’t as big of a problem as car breaks, but was noted.

Simple assault did increase during the study period in Charlestown, the only area to see that happen. However, that seemed to be related to domestic violence increases and not the casino.

“Charlestown is the only contributing area to see an increase in simple assaults,” read the report. “The increase is at residential properties, suggesting the assaults are representative of domestic violence. The increase is very slight, however, and it’s too early to make much of it as a trend.”

There were no major increases in threats or fraud.

One thing that did appear clearly was that the early questions about traffic and hotel occupancy issues did not pan out as expected.

Addressing the pre-opening questions of more traffic, “The Boston Police made more vehicle stops along these streets (57 against an average of 42 and a predicted window of 30–54), but otherwise no. Traffic collisions were at 75 against an average of 67 and a predicted window of 69–97. No other call type was reported along this street in significant volume.”

In the Town’s four hotels, during the study period there were no categories high enough to show any impact worth noting.

Overall, on the casino site, there were 124 arrests during the period and 506 ejections from the casino property during that time. In all, Bruce said the more important report will come at the one-year period – though it will be dramatically skewed by the COVID-19 closure. In the first look, though, he said the casino didn’t seem to have any major and notable ties to increases in crime in Everett and the surrounding communities.

“Encore Boston Harbor opened on June 23, 2019, drawing more than three million visitors during the first six months,’ he wrote. “As such, the facility reported various crimes, disorder, and arrests commensurate with a facility of that size hosting that many visitors. In the surrounding areas, various crimes increased and decreased. Few patterns and trends so far have shown any direct casino ties, but this report flagged a handful for future monitoring.”

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