Police make progress in tackling violence on the Las Vegas Strip

Just over a year ago on the Las Vegas Strip, a spate of violent crime made headlines in a tourist corridor emerging from an unprecedented economic shutdown.

Despite police efforts, sporadic acts of violence on the Strip persisted until 2021 as millions of visitors returned.

Last year there was a shootout in Aria’s valet, gunfire on the MGM Grand casino floor, a stab in The Venetian, a shootout in front of Paris Las Vegas, a shootout in front of the Miracle Mile Shops, and a scrum in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.

“We’ve had unique crime waves that hit Las Vegas and quite frankly it’s been happening across the country,” said Metropolitan Police Department captain Dori Koren, who oversees the area command. from the convention center which includes the Strip. “Like any other big city, we started to see an increase in some crime. We managed to manage it and get it under control. It kind of resurfaced last year, and I’m proud to say we’ve made a lot of progress in dealing with it.

Police responded to the wave of crime by conducting Operation Persistent Pressure, using a strong officer presence on the gang to combat an increase in aggravated assaults. This year, they made 52,000 pedestrian and vehicle stops across the convention center area command, confiscating more than 500 guns and making more than 9,000 arrests, Koren said.

In January, a shootout seriously injured a man outside The Venetian. In March, a Wynn Las Vegas employee shot dead a security guard before killing himself on the property. In August, a man was shot and killed at a motel on the 3900 block of Las Vegas Boulevard South. On September 22, a gun battle seriously injured a man in the 3700 block of Las Vegas Boulevard South. And, on November 7, a man was shot and paralyzed in a morning shootout on Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.

“I can’t say it’s perfect, but we always strive to be perfect,” Koren said. “Each crime, each victim is a priority for us. This is not a zero sum game. It’s not like the crime goes to zero. We are constantly trying to reduce it. But we are much better off than we were.

Aggravated assaults

In the area command of the convention center, which also includes important areas to the east and west of the strip, the number of aggravated assaults continued to increase in 2021. As of November 26, there are had 426 aggravated assaults, up from 412 in 2020, representing a 3.4 percent increase. Authorities see this as a success given the increase in visitors to the Strip in 2021, as well as the fact that last year, when the Strip reopened, police faced a 29% increase. the same type of assault.

Murders, meanwhile, rose 58% across Metro’s jurisdiction, mimicking a national trend in rising homicide rates across the country. Murders have also increased in the convention center area to 11 in 2021, from 1 in 2020, though the majority of those homicides took place off the Strip.

“A lot of our violent crimes don’t happen on the Strip where tourists go to dine,” Koren said. “It’s happening on the outskirts, maybe a bit to the east, maybe a bit to the west, pockets of residential areas.”

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo cautioned against comparing 2021 crime statistics with 2020, given that the Strip and much of the Las Vegas economy have been closed for decades. month. In all of Metro’s jurisdictions, violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault declined nearly 12% in 2021 from the previous year, while violent crime increased. increased by 4.3% in the command of the convention center area.

Property crime on the rise

Lombardo said police are seeing another “embarrassing” increase in 2021 in property crimes such as burglaries, theft and motor vehicle theft.

“Significant increase in motor vehicle theft to the tune of over 20 percent,” Lombardo said. “Theft, an increase of 8%. It’s embarrassing and it’s an integral part of supply chain and parts and parts issues in and out of stolen vehicles, vehicle theft for transportation due to the unavailability of new cars and cars from opportunity. We know it, we are aware of it, and we are devoting resources to addressing it. “

Lombardo said a trend of stealing catalytic converters from vehicles and then reselling them on the black market has also played a role in the rise in the number of property crimes.

“The problem with the catalytic converter – it hasn’t diminished,” Lombardo said. “We have taken a significant number of individuals into custody as a result of this particular crime. People are taking advantage of the shortage of parts and parts.

In the convention center area command, property crimes increased 49% in 2021 compared to 2020, with motor vehicle thefts increasing by almost 75%, burglaries by 50% and theft by 46%. Koren, however, said the numbers were inflated against the backdrop of the 2020 economic shutdown.

“When you compare it to 2019, we do pretty well when it comes to burglaries and theft,” Koren said. “Auto theft, however, is a problem. We recognize it and we have made it a priority. We are seeing more and more stolen vehicles no matter what year you compare it to.

A delicate balance for tourism

Christopher Herrmann, an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said many large metropolitan areas in the United States are grappling with an increase in crime.

“It’s definitely not a good image,” Herrmann said. “We had a very significant increase in crime in 2020, and many of us expected crime to decrease once society started to reopen again, people went back to work and students returned. at school. The economy improved, but crime remained high. “

Anecdotal evidence indicates that some of the crimes are linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and mental health stress, Herrmann said. This does not explain everything, however.

Peter Tarlow is President of the World Tourism Network and a global expert in tourism safety. He said he believed Las Vegas was doing a great job protecting tourists on the Strip and that no city was safe from acts of violence in the aftermath of the pandemic.

An important aspect of tourism security, he said, is preventing major episodes of crime, which in turn protects the city’s reputation. He believes part of the increase in crime in the United States is due to reforms in the criminal justice system and the reluctance of prosecutors to be tough on crime.

“Last week I was in Israel and one of the questions I was asked was, ‘Is it safe to go to the United States?’ Said Tarlow. “Most Americans are sort of laughing about it, but they (foreign tourists) read that the car hit in a Christmas parade, people stabbed in the New York subway. Crime statistics are exploding in the United States. If you are in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, do you want to go to the United States for sightseeing? “

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates The Venetian.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at [email protected] To follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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