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Police intensify response to violence on Las Vegas Strip

Updated October 6, 2020 - 9:04 pm

When it comes to year-over-year violent crime rates, arrows pointing in opposite directions tell the story: Down in Clark County, but up on the Las Vegas Strip.

There has been a melee at a nightclub, a shooting during a rapper’s birthday celebration at Aria, gunfire in front of the Bellagio fountains and more. Some casino operators reacted by increasing security and room rates.

A recent series of shootings and assaults on the Strip have worried the elected officials who oversee the tourist corridor and, beyond the alarm for public safety, the instances have raised questions about how the violence might affect a fragile economy already hurting from a pandemic.

“We’ve all been concerned, obviously both from a health and welfare perspective, of the increased activity on Las Vegas Boulevard and Strip, but also, of course, about the economic implications of that,” Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft said Tuesday.

In an update on the recent violence provided to the commission on Tuesday, police again acknowledged that violent crime is statistically higher this year on the Strip even as they were seeing fewer crimes such as sexual assaults and robberies.

“The area where we’re struggling, and what you’re noticing online is our aggravated assaults,” said Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Dori Koren, speaking of viral video and social media rumblings of some instances. “That includes your stabbings, your shootings, some of your more violent domestic violence incidents, and that’s where we’re seeing a significant increase as of recently,” he said.

Better trend lately

Koren, who oversees Metro’s Convention Center Area Command, which covers Las Vegas Boulevard from Russell Road to Sahara Avenue and adjacent areas, said late last month that aggravated assaults in his area were up 29 percent year-to-date over the same period last year.

On Tuesday he told commissioners that police have been aggressively responding to the rise in violence over the past two months.

General violent crime in his area command is up 4.2 percent year-to-date over the same period in 2019, he said, though it is down about 3.7 percent in the county. But an increased police presence lately has contributed to reversing the troubling trend on the Strip, he added.

In August, police recovered 63 illegal guns in the area command over 30 days — more than twice its goal — as part of the initiative Operation Top Gun. And there were 340 arrests for felony or gross misdemeanor offenses in September, which he said is a higher monthly figure than usual.

There have been 1,500 arrests in the past two months, about 40 percent of which are for felony or gross misdemeanor offenses, he said.

Under the latest initiative, Operation Persistent Pressure, police recovered 25 illegal guns just over the past two-and-a-half weeks.

Violent crimes such as rapes and robberies have declined further while aggravated assaults in the area command have dropped 33 percent in the past 28 days compared with the 28-day period before it, according to Koren.

“It’s not enough but it is trending in the right direction,” he said.

Wreak havoc, leave by plane

Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said elected leaders would continue to partner with authorities on efforts however they were needed.

In response to questions from commissioners about from where violent perpetrators were coming, Koren said, anecdotally, that “a good portion” were from out of state and that police had noticed an increase in gang members not from Nevada.

A majority of shooting suspects on the Strip, which police have either caught or at least identified, have been from out of the state, he said.

“We’re concerned as to folks coming into the community wreaking a lot of havoc and then hopping back on a plane,” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said, speaking about conversations that he has had with religious and youth leaders.

Among the concerns: “After the smoke clears, we’re left with the carnage.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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