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Wesley Juhl

Las Vegas announces street safety plan for New Year's Eve

29 December 2015

Officials want to let the hundreds of thousands of people expected to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas know they will be safe.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo spoke to reporters in a parking lot at the Rio on Monday morning to address safety concerns in light of recent terrorist attacks. Officials also asked the news media to spread the word that police do not want to see any large bags or strollers on the Strip on Thursday night.

This year, Metro is changing its "posture" on New Year's Eve patrols and precautions, Lombardo said.

"The environment that we're living in now has changed," he said, referring to recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris and the Dec. 20 crash on the Las Vegas Strip.

On Nov. 13, an Islamic State group-led attack in Paris and an adjacent suburb left 130 people dead.

On Dec. 2, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, killed 14 people and wounded 21 others at the Inland Regional Center social services agency. Both terrorists died later in a shootout with police.

Although Lombardo stressed that his department did not consider the crash in front of Planet Hollywood Resort a terrorist act, he said it was a "unique incident" that could make visitors nervous. Lakeisha Holloway, 24, was arrested that night in connection with the crash that sent 35 people to the hospital and killed Jessica Valenzuela, 32, of Buckeye, Ariz.

Despite a 300% increase in tips about "suspicious activity" in recent months, Lombardo said Monday that the valley isn't facing any credible threats on New Year's. Nonetheless, the department is increasing its police presence. There will be about 300 uniformed police officers on duty at the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas and just under 1,000 officers on the Strip.

Officers will also be undercover, dressed in plain clothes, at both locations, Lombardo said.

In past years, Las Vegas police have commandeered the median areas on Las Vegas Boulevard, fencing them off on either side to let officers easily move back and forth along the Strip. Police will do that again this year, but there will be more officers in the crowd than ever, Lombardo said.

Officials began eyeing an ordinance that would ban bags and strollers on the Strip after the attacks in Paris, but there wasn't enough time to get the measure through the County Commission.

"By state law we could not adopt the ordinance in time," Brown said, pointing to laws that mandate public notice of proposed ordinances. "We really need you to partner with us."

Hotel-casinos will be asking guests not to take bags or strollers with them Thursday night, and notices will appear at McCarran International Airport and on reader boards along valley highways. Anyone seen on the Strip with a bag will be approached by Las Vegas police, who will ask that they comply with the request not to bring bags or strollers.

But because it's a request, not an ordinance, police can only ask, Lombardo said.

Goodman said there is already a similar rule within Las Vegas proper, but the Fremont Street Experience is easier to monitor than the Strip because it's closed off on two sides. She said she has full confidence in Metro's ability to keep everyone safe and doesn't want anyone to be scared.

"This is about having a party," she said.

All of the speakers stressed that the community reports suspicious activity, repeating "see something, say something."

"Metro can't do it alone . . . this needs to be a community effort," Brown said.

Officials generally expect about 300,000 visitors to come to the valley for New Year's Eve, but Brown said that the celebration kicking off a three-day weekend should lead to an even larger number of partygoers hitting the town.