New Year New Fear?
Everybody loves a party! Especially America’s Party – also known as New Year’s Eve (NYE) – on the neon drenched Las Vegas Strip, lavishly indulging and splurging on world class entertainment, dining, fireworks, and unparalleled glitz and revelry.
Throngs of wassailers from around the globe, the country, and Las Vegas itself (city officials estimate some 350,000) will crowd streets, hotels, and casinos along Las Vegas Blvd. to ring out the old and ring in the new.
Many will hope and dream for a better, and safer, year ahead. Many will remember – amid the merrymaking – the 58 innocents mercilessly gunned down and the 500 injured just ninety days before in the deadliest mass murder in modern U.S. history. Many will consider if it could happen again.
New year … New Fear?
Not if Las Vegas city officials can help it. In the wake of the tragedy, law makers, businesses, political leaders, and police are assuring tourists – who drive the Southern Nevada economy – that Las Vegas is safe.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman believes that Las Vegas will continue to be “one of the top destinations for New Year celebrations in the world.
“Our public safety and law enforcement teams do an excellent job managing that event and I’m sure this year will be no different. Everyone is invited to join us in Las Vegas as we kickoff 2018!” Goodman states with confidence.
Nevada First District Congresswoman Dina Titus also has faith in the spirit of the Las Vegas community to ensure a safe and secure 2018 New Year celebration.
“The world has learned who we are as a community in the aftermath of the October 1 tragedy,” she says. “We demonstrated that there are tight-knit bonds in our neighborhoods, good Samaritans on every corner, and selfless heroes who take the call of action without hesitation. Las Vegas must never let its guard down, but it is reassuring to know that our community will rise to the occasion in the most difficult of times.”
More than 40 million tourists visit Las Vegas each year – a city experienced at managing the masses with the least amount of conflict possible. Security is extensive and multilayered throughout all areas, with best efforts to keep it the least visible.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) Office of Public Information reports that this year’s celebration will benefit from added federal government resources allocated toward safety and security on the Strip.
Last year’s celebration received a Special Event Assessment Rating 2 (SEAR 2) by the Department of Homeland Security. Preparedness for this year’s event has already garnered a SEAR 1 rating from the Department. “That’s the result of increased federal resources going toward improved event security,” says a spokesperson for the LVMPD.
“The additional funding provides for increased law enforcement visibility along the tourist corridor together with other first responder agencies, augmented by a large plain clothes and undercover presence,” the spokesperson adds. “Additionally, we have our Real Time Crime Center that monitors the multitude of cameras along the Strip, enabling event surveillance and over-watch.”
Thousands of private security professionals have also been added to scrutinize the Strip and Downtown areas. “They assist law enforcement by serving as a force multiplier. We depend on the intelligence they give us,” says the spokesperson. “With intelligence, we’re forewarned. We can investigate and take whatever action is needed to prevent and protect. Without intelligence at these types of events, we wind up responding.”
Law enforcement will also surveil windows, rooftops, and crowds – from numerous strategic vantage points – poised to act on any unusual or suspicious activity.
The entire four-mile length of the Strip transforms into a giant pedestrian block party on NYE, closing to traffic between 6 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. and stretching from Russell Road and the Mandalay Bay to the south to Sahara Blvd. and the Stratosphere to the north.
Despite the absence of vehicles on the Strip that night, and the threat they pose, Clark County will have installed 800 bollards (vertical steel posts designed to prevent vehicular passage) along Las Vegas Blvd. by New Year’s Eve.
The city will also install an additional 7,500 bollards in and around the city over the next year. These ubiquitous posts are designed to withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling at upwards of 50 mph.
“We look at trends and incidents locally as well as nationally and globally,” says another LVMPD public information spokesperson. “We discuss what worked and what didn’t; and we continually evaluate and evolve our approach to implement security measures that are increasingly more effective.
RTC, the local bus system, will give free rides for those who plan to imbibe throughout the NYE celebration. Buses will drive 39 fixed routes from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. Police hope that this will allow for a fun-filled night minus an overnight at the Clark County Detention Center or worse.
Revelers are cautioned that although it’s legal for those 21 years of age and older to drink alcoholic beverages while strolling the Strip, glass and aluminum containers are prohibited. And as of 2016, Clark County passed an ordinance banning all large bags and suitcases from the Strip on New Year’s Eve.
Security and vigilance is a top priority at casinos as well. “It’s said that there’s more surveillance at hotel and casino properties than at McCarran Airport,” shared a casino executive who wished to remain anonymous.
“Trained personnel constantly analyze footage from the web of cameras embedded throughout hotel and casino properties,” says a retired LVMPD sergeant who now heads security at a hotel on the Strip. “We meet regularly with law enforcement officials to exchange intelligence and address issues. And our employees are trained to spot and report potential threats,” he adds.
Wynn and Encore properties now scan bags, and guests pass through metal detectors; retired Marines, armed and in plain clothes, monitor traffic at every entrance while former Navy Seals and intelligence agents run casino counterterrorism units.
MGM Resorts (which also own the Mandalay Bay) spokeswoman Debra DeShong said in a statement that, “Our security team is working tirelessly to protect the safety of our guests and facilities, and has increased its level of security to add to the level of comfort and safety of our guests and employees.”
Mehmet Erdem, an associate professor at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, suggests that Las Vegas offers the “safest environment” for tourists, with hotels that can afford the latest high-tech cameras and a significant security force both in uniform and in plainclothes.
As Erdam says, “If I was a tourist choosing a city to go to in North America, and I had to choose one city, my bet would still be on Las Vegas.”
New Year’s Eve is an exciting time to be in Las Vegas and law enforcement officials want visitors is to have fun, but also be vigilant.
“More than 300,000 people will ring in the New Year on the Las Vegas Strip. We ask that they be the eyes and ears for law enforcement for anything that looks out of place or suspicious. If something does not look right or causes concern, please notify a police officer, or call 311 or 911,” urges an LVMPD official.
A video, recently released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association states, “What happened here was wrong. Unbelievable. Senseless. But what happened here is about everyday heroes. Compassion. Strength. What happened here is not going to stop us.”
So as the hand on the clock officially bids farewell to 2017 and welcomes 2018; as the last world famous Grucci firework explodes over each of the six casino rooftops; as the final swirl of streamers floats gracefully to the ground; when binding kisses for a healthy, happy, and safe new year are exchanged; then the festivities will adjourn indoors until the first new day of the new year emerges with the sunrise.
And the world will know that America’s Party is not really over. Not now. Not ever. Fear not. #ThePartyInVegasLivesOn.