BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS)–The region around Encore Boston Harbor in Everett has not experienced a sizable increase in crime rates attributable to the casino’s presence, according to research presented to gaming regulators on Thursday.
Consultants for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission studied crime data for Chelsea, Malden, Melrose, Saugus, Lynn and the casino’s hometown of Everett over a period of nearly four years from Sept. 30, 2018 to July 2, 2022. That includes Encore’s opening on June 23, 2019, its brief closure early in the COVID-19 pandemic and then its reopening. They found that while offense rates fluctuated, the trends indicate the casino “has limited impact on crime in the region.”
Noah Fritz, the principal investigator at consultant Justice Research Associates, told commissioners on Thursday that the data pointed to a significant increase in crime rates after Encore shut its doors to minimize COVID-19 risks and before the casino reopened, suggesting the hub for legal gambling “wasn’t the primary effect of criminal activity.”
“While it closed, [crime] started to climb again before it reopened, and that was a sign for us that basically said there’s something else going on. It did not go down and stay down,” Fritz said. He added, “When it reopened, [crime rates] climbed back up, but not quite as high on average. Since then, it’s flattened out around the same as pre-opening.”
One specific subset did show more of an increase: vehicle-related crimes, which “significantly increased” when Encore reopened. Fritz said that lines up with a national trend. “Cars are being targeted, theft from cars,” he said. “Items inside the car and what are called auto parts, like catalytic converters, airbags and rims and tires are being highly targeted all along the I-95 corridor, I-90 corridor, up the East Coast, in California, everywhere.”
Before the Legislature legalized casinos in 2011, opponents of the idea for years predicted increases in crime near casinos would follow legalization.