Saturday, May 25 2013 12:29 PM EDT2013-05-25 16:29:57 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The Vintner Grill banquet facility inside the Fashion Show Mall has been shut down. According to the Southern Nevada Health District website, the facility was closed Friday after an inspectionMore>>
The Vintner Grill banquet facility inside the Fashion Show Mall has been shut down.More>>
Saturday, May 25 2013 12:11 AM EDT2013-05-25 04:11:44 GMT
HENDERSON, NV. -- McCarran Airport officials confirm a Piper Single Engine airplane departed from the Henderson Executive Airport then made an emergency landing on a nearby street due to mechaninical problems.More>>
McCarran Airport officials confirm a Piper Single Engine airplane departed from the Henderson Executive Airport then made an emergency landing on a nearby street due to mechaninical problems.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:34 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:34:21 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- A family is in awe of how many lives their son touched. The funeral for Marcos Arenas, a 15-year-old boy apparently killed over an iPad was held Friday. Marcos was a freshman at BonanzaMore>>
The funeral for Marcos Arenas, a 15-year-old boy apparently killed over an iPad was held Friday.More>>
Saturday, May 25 2013 12:27 AM EDT2013-05-25 04:27:34 GMT
LAKE MEAD, Nev. -- Thousands of people are expected to go to Lake Mead this weekend, to cool off and relax. While there will be lots of fun on the water, the National Park Service rangers and Nevada DepartmentMore>>
Thousands of people are expected to go to Lake Mead this weekend, to cool off and relax.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 8:27 PM EDT2013-05-25 00:27:45 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- Federal felony charges were filed against a Las Vegas man for attempting to destroy a local children's autism learning facility by fire and explosive devices, Nevada's U.S. Attorney DanielMore>>
Federal felony charges were filed against a Las Vegas man for attempting to destroy a local children's autism learning facility by fire and explosive devices, Nevada's U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Friday.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:59 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:59:58 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says the Clark County school board may have opened itself up to legal problems in appointing a new superintendent late Tuesday. A private citizenMore>>
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says the Clark County school board may have opened itself up to legal problems in appointing a new superintendent late Tuesday.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:40 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:40:18 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital will maintain its federal funding despite not meeting some of the government's requirements. The hospital came under scrutiny for its discharging procedures.More>>
The Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital will maintain its federal funding despite not meeting some of the government's requirements.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 5:05 PM EDT2013-05-24 21:05:30 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The Clark County Grand Jury has indicted Michael Smith on murder and assault charges in the shooting death of a man in January. Michael Smith is accused of killing Carlos Bell on Jan. 14,More>>
The Clark County Grand Jury has indicted Michael Smith on murder and assault charges in the shooting death of a man in January.More>>
LAS VEGAS -- If you look at the raw numbers, serious crime along the Las Vegas Strip is down in several categories, in part because of a more visible police presence since last fall. But if you take a stroll down the Strip, you might think the statistics are deceiving, based on the rowdy behavior and prevalence of street hustlers that have become all too common.
The transformation of Strip sidewalks into a nightly drunken frat party didn't happen overnight, and fixing it won't happen in a flash either. Increased enforcement and a permanent police presence are the most obvious needs, but this comes at a time when government funds have dried up -- not only money for enough officers, but for the other components that help create a deterrent to troublemakers.
If your only impression of the Strip comes from watching YouTube videos of punch-outs and mayhem, you might conclude it's too rowdy to be safe. The reality is, despite all of the high profile incidents and viral videos, Las Vegas Boulevard, for the vast majority of visitors, is still a safe place.
But police and tourism officials know the recent uptick in audacious behavior needs to be stopped and turned back before it gets out way out of hand.
"We have seen what has happened in other tourist destinations when crime impacted in a negative way. We can't allow that to happen here, and we won't," said Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie.
Sheriff Gillespie drew a line in the sand last fall when he created a special team devoted entirely to eliminating troublemakers from the Strip. In recent weeks, he has beefed up Metro's Strip presence even more in response to a series of deadly incidents. Two gaming companies ponied up funds to pay overtime for extra officers so that more cops on the Strip would not mean fewer police in neighborhoods.
Metro is encouraged by what happened in New York's Times Square in the 90's. Like the Strip, that area became infested with sleaze and lowlifes, which drove away tourists. A strong and permanent police presence turned it completely around.
In the late 70's, streetwalkers became so prevalent on the Strip that they posed a serious threat to tourism. It took considerable resources and sustained arrests, but the hookers finally receded.
"The police can only do so much. They are not the gestapo. You can't just swat the problem away. You can't arrest your way out of the problem," said Former Sheriff Bill Young.
Young agrees that a stronger police presence is crucial, but cutbacks in the number of Metro officers, as well as prosecutors needed to process cases, plus overcrowding in local jails, means that street people know their chance of being punished is low. The public, and the industry, must be ready to pay for long term solutions.
"We have no jail beds for misdemeanor crimes, and until you sentence the prostitutes, vagrants, low-end street criminals from jail time where you actually remove them, take away their livelihood and put them in jail, they are not leaving Las Vegas -- I got news for you," said Young.
The illegal water vendors are an example. Metro keeps arresting them by the dozens but the thinly-stretched District Attorney's Office has not had the resources to prosecute small time crimes. As of this month, though, the DA has agreed to transfer the necessary resources into the Strip fight.
Sheriff Gillespie has also initiated negotiations with the escort services, seeking voluntary limits on when, where, and how many smut raggers can be on the sidewalk. Handbillers and entertainers are protected by the First Amendment, but some locals, fed up with the smut, are calling for the creation of free speech zones, which could impose some limits on when and where the assorted hustlers, including the costumed crowd, could operate.
The trick might be finding the right balance on the street.
"It is a fine line. On one hand, you don't want to turn it into a police state, having, you know, searches and like that. On the other hand, you want to have a presence there and if there is trouble, there is going to be a response," said UNLV's David Schwartz.
Schwartz thinks the national economic tailspin has contributed to issues on the Strip -- so many unemployed locals now have the time to just hang out on the street. Also, the collapse sent room rates plummeting, which has drawn a whole new lower-end crowd to Strip resorts.
But it's not so much the class of people who are here that's the problem, Schwartz thinks, but rather their preconceptions about Las Vegas -- impressions that perhaps could be fined tuned in the future marketing campaigns.
"I don't think it's the people coming that's the problem, I think it's the perception they have that they can get away with things that are going to hurt other people," he said.
"I think the resort community does a fantastic job in attracting people to our city and it's my responsibility when they come here to keep them safe," said Gillespie.
It's almost a cliche to ask for some sort of study or oversight of the complicated issues involved, but that might be exactly what is needed, not only to address the funding issues -- how to pay for a permanent police presence out there -- but also to look at zoning decisions which helped create the problems, and some sort of general cleanup of the most glaring eyesores out there.
Friday, the conclusion of the I-Team's week long series, though we hope the conversation is just getting started.