Just over a year ago, a series of violent crimes occurred on the Las Vegas Strip. This was just after Sin City emerged from an unprecedented economic shutdown. Despite police efforts, violence has continued on the Strip through 2021, as millions of people return to the area.
Vegas Crime Remains an Issue
Last year saw a shooting at the Aria, gunfire on the MGM Grand casino floor, a stabbing in The Venetian, and shootings in front of Paris Las Vegas, the Miracle Mile Shops, Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, and others.
Operation Persistent Pressure was a police response to the rising crime wave. It involved a large officer presence on the Strip in an effort to counter the rise in aggravated attacks. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, police have made more than 9,000 arrests and have confiscated more than 500 guns from pedestrians and cars in the convention center area command.
A shooting left a man critically injured at The Venetian in January. A Wynn Las Vegas employee shot and killed a security guard. He then committed suicide on the property. The crime wave isn’t limited to casinos, either, with shootings a common occurrence along Las Vegas Boulevard.
The number of aggravated attacks in the convention center area command continued to rise in 2021. This includes large areas east and south of the Strip. There were 426 aggravated attacks as of November 26, compared to 412 last year. This represents a 3.4% rise. This is considered a success by authorities due to the increase in visitors to the Strip in 2021 and the fact that police had to deal with a 29% rise in similar types of assaults last year as the Strip reopened.
Metro saw an increase in murders of 58%, mirroring a nationwide trend in rising homicides. The number of murders in the convention center rose to 11 in 2021 from 1 in 2020. However, the majority of those homicides took place off the Strip.
Comparing Apples to Oranges
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo warned against comparing 2020 crime statistics to 2021, as the Strip and large parts of the Las Vegas economy were shut down for several months. All Metro jurisdictions saw violent crimes like murder, rape, and aggravated attacks drop by nearly 12% in 2021, compared to the previous year. However, the area command for the convention center saw an increase of 4.3%.
Lombardo stated that police are experiencing a “troublesome increase” in property crimes in 2021, such as burglaries and larcenies and thefts from motor vehicles.
Lombardo stated that there was a significant increase in motor vehicle thefts to the tune 20-plus percent. Larcenies have increased by 8%. This is a problem and it is part of supply chain issues. There are pieces and parts in and out vehicles that have been stolen, as well as vehicles being used to transport them due to the lack of new and used cars. He added that police departments are aware of the problem and are “putting resources in place to fix it.”
Property crimes increased by 49% in the convention center command area compared to 2020. Motor vehicle thefts rose almost 75%, burglaries rose 50%, and larcenies rose 46%. Metropolitan Police Department Captain Dori Koren said that the numbers were exaggerated in light of the 2020 economic shutdown.
Koren adds, “When you compare it to 2019, we are doing pretty well when it comes to burglaries and larcenies. Auto thefts, though, is (sic) a problem. We recognize it, and we’ve made it a priority. We are seeing more vehicles being stolen regardless of what year you compare it to.”
Vegas Not Alone in Crime Wave
Christopher Herrmann, an assistant professor from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, stated that many major metropolitan areas are facing rising crime.
Herrmann stated that it was a grim picture. “We had a really significant increase in crime in 2020, and a lot of us expected that crime to go back down once society started to reopen again, people went back to work and students went back to school. The economy got on better grounds, but crime has remained elevated,” he stated.
Herrmann explained that anecdotal evidence suggests that some of the crimes are related to the COVID-19 epidemic and the related mental health stress. However, this doesn’t account for all of it.
Peter Tarlow, president of the World Tourism Network, is a global expert in tourism safety. He stated that he believes Las Vegas does a great job protecting tourists on the Strip and that violence can still occur in the wake of a pandemic.
He added that preventing major crimes is an important part of safety for tourists. This protects the reputation of the city. He believes that part of the increase in crime in America is due to reforms in the criminal justice system and a refusal by prosecutors not to be tough on crime.