LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Like savanna animals to the watering hole, spectators will flock to the pond that is the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix come next week.
To Ted Snodgrass, that brings “the predators” looking for “opportunities.” The former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) lieutenant should know: he has three decades in the police force and several New Year’s Eve fireworks shows – which garner hundreds of thousands of people to the Strip each year – under his belt.
“Lots of prey, and very attractive prey because they have money,” Snodgrass said inside the 8 News Now studios Thursday morning, discussing the expected fans traveling to Las Vegas for the three-day racing event. “What can go wrong, will go wrong.”
The task: Predict crime before it happens. That may be easier said than done as the race’s 3.8-mile footprint – with limited access points and 105,000 grandstand seats – is unlike any police have secured before. Current LVMPD Sheriff Kevin McMahill made that point apparent in August after telling a crowd, “This type of an event is something that we’ve never dealt with before. The size of the footprint that we’ve never dealt with before.”
“What are you looking for?” 8 News Now Reporter Ryan Matthey asked Snodgrass about suspicious activity.
“People not watching the race,” Snodgrass responded. “They’re watching something else.”
He says those people could be, instead, plotting their next pickpocket, or sex workers that traveled from outside the state or country targeting wealthy attendees. Any victim is more vulnerable than usual due to the condensed environment of towering grandstands and closed roads, Snodgrass said.
But, his primary concern lies in gaining access inside of the circuit when it’s closed off, or “hot” as LVGP has described the track when used for racing.
“Someone has a heart attack that’s in a difficult spot inside those four miles. How are you going to get medical people in there and get them out?” Snodgrass said while questioning if a helicopter landing pad is available inside the circuit.
“We’re not used to talking to each other. How do we talk to each other?” Snodgrass said. “Anytime you mix (agencies) like that, it’s a recipe for confusion.”
LVMPD ensures they’ve got any communication hurdles under control, whether the public sees it or not. Snodgrass said some personnel will likely be disguised in plain clothing.
K9 officers will be on scene and body thermal cameras are already installed. Like any event closing the Strip, police will also be staffed with heavy weapons.
“You’re getting ready to take the shot and the car drives in front of you, or the race cars keep going by. Are you going to take the shot, take out your threat? Or are you going to take the shot and hit the driver of the car?” Snodgrass said. “You have to be able to individually remove the grain of salt from the sugar and get it out of there without affecting the sugar.”
At a Thursday press conference, LVMPD said firefighters will be deployed and stationed within and outside the circuit. Safety scrim has been installed along pedestrian bridges over the track to prevent people from “clogging up” the flow of traffic.
Additionally, LVMPD said everyone entering the race will be subject to weapons detection and security screening.