Las Vegas seen as dangerous even as crime drops

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 23, 2013 at 10:56 am •  Published: February 23, 2013
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During the same period, Las Vegas courts sentenced a Florida teacher for killing a stranger with a single punch after trading words in a casino bathroom, and heard the case of two law students charged with beheading an exotic bird at the Flamingo casino-hotel.

The shoot-'em-up car chase that closed the Strip for 12 hours Thursday was the most public and deadly incident yet.

A person in a luxury SUV opened fire on an aspiring rapper in a Maserati near one of the busiest intersections on the iconic corridor. As the bullets flew, the Maserati ran a red light and crashed into a taxi, which burst into flames. The taxi driver, a passenger and the rapper were killed, and six people were injured.

Casino executives say they do all they can to keep visitors safe, with armies of guards, networks of high-definition surveillance cameras and undercover security workers scattered throughout nearly every major attraction.

"Unless you are a complete idiot, you're not going to want to commit many crimes in or around a casino because you're going to get caught," Thompson said.

But catching a criminal isn't the same as stopping the crime.

Commissioners in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, are weighing steps to increase safety, including installing additional cameras in public spaces and broadening the sidewalks. In October, they banned potentially dangerous objects including fireworks, knives and toy guns from the Strip.

But real guns remain permissible. Nevada's relaxed gun laws, including the ability to carry them openly, have made Las Vegas an attractive spot for shooting ranges and gun shows.

Some observers think police should step up their presence on the Strip, just as they did after three slayings in 2011.

"Clearly they should be looking into this because they have had a string of incidents now, and while they've all been random incidents, they all did happen," said David Schwartz, the Director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

On Thursday, police spokesman Jose Hernandez said the department had no plans to send additional officers to the Strip, noting that crime remains relatively low for a town that accommodates so many visitors each day.

But with violent crime, as with so much else in Vegas, perception may outweigh reality. As a place built on the promise of letting loose, the city must work extra hard to banish all fear of danger, said Tony Henthorne, a marketing professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration in Las Vegas.

"It's important for any destination that relies on tourism for a major percentage of its income to appear safe," he said, "and also actually to be safe."

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Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier