Protecting the Nest
Double homicides, teen suicides, home invasions, burglaries. It’s a case of pick your media poison when it comes to Las Vegas crime reports and statistics. Whether you blame it on a transient society, Las Vegas’ ever-debated dark soul, or a host of other reasons, the perception is still growing that Las Vegas is indeed a city seen as having its share of vulnerabilities when it comes to crime.
According to Las Vegas Review Journal reports, 2017 homicide rates kept pace with 2016 numbers, a record year. NeighborhoodScout.com, a tracker of crime in U.S. communities, ranks Las Vegas 11 out of 100 (100 being the safest) on its crime index, meaning the city is only safer than 11 percent of U.S. cities. The site reports more than 24,000 annual crimes in Las Vegas, nearly 5,500 of which are violent crimes and nearly 19,000 property crimes like burglaries or car thefts. Las Vegas’ crime rate is 8.63 per 1,000 residents for violent crime and 29.78 per 1,000 residents for property crime.
The data comes with some conflicting elements, however. Las Vegas is considered “not one of the safest communities in America,” according to Neighborhood Scout, but when “compared to other communities of similar population size, Las Vegas has a crime rate noticeably lower than the average.” In fact, the website also noted that, “Las Vegas is actually safer than most [cities] according to Neighborhood Scout’s exclusive analysis of FBI crime data. At the same time, our violent crime rate is among the highest in the nation, with a chance of becoming a victim pegged at one in 116. For property crime, Las Vegas offers an “above average chance” of victimization when compared to all other communities in America.
Burglaries may not get the mass media attention that violent crimes do, but homeowners are still plugged into the potential for problems in their neighborhoods – whether it’s real or not. Here’s a look at how local neighborhood crime and security experts see the situation, and how they say Las Vegas residents are responding to all the bad news.
Technology and perception
Seeing how poorly Las Vegas fairs nationally when it comes to crime, hearing media accounts of specific crimes and an overall emphasis on the negativity of the crime conversation, all play a part in our perception of safety in our community, says UNLV Associate Professor William Sousa, who is also the director for the Center for Crime and Justice Policy at the university’s Department of Criminal Justice.
“I think part of it is we’ve become more aware of these things happening and a lot of it has to do with social media,” he says. “It’s not always the case that … crime could be ticking up, but we’re also more aware of it and we’re able to see it so much more readily. That affects people’s perceptions and so people are more apt to say that crime is up, even if it’s really not on the rise.”
Sousa says it’s important to look at long-term crime data and not dwell on single-year spikes in order to get a good read on whether an area is truly becoming more crime-ridden. Since 2010, he says, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), annual burglaries have ranged between 12,000 and 14,000 incidents in the Las Vegas metro area. 2016 saw fewer incidents than 2015 and was closer to 12,000. While 2017 numbers aren’t fully calculated, he suspects that year will be at least slightly higher than 2016.
“In the case of burglary, the numbers have been relatively stable,” he adds. “You want to look more at five, 10 or 15 years, not just a two-year trend.”
Although there are three to four times more property crimes than violent crimes, considerably more resources are spent on violent crimes, Sousa added, making property crime solving a lower priority, in general.
“So many resources go towards violent crime. There’s not enough time in the day to handle property crimes. … They just don’t have the resources,” he says.
Burglaries, however, can be just as traumatic for a person as a robbery, that which may have involved a weapon, or a violent crime, Sousa says, since they primarily deal with the home environment. “People are very much traumatized and they wonder if they are safe sleeping in their own home,” he added.
With all types of criminal behavior being a focus for media outlets, Valley home security companies are seeing increases in business activity. Ronny Adler, founder of In The Sky, a Las Vegas-based security company, says cameras and alarms are the most popular requests today. Camera technology, he adds, has improved greatly while prices overall have dropped. For about $1,500, an advanced system with cameras, alarm, and a video doorbell camera can be installed.
Doorbell video cameras, in particular, have been highly requested by homeowners, Adler says. Often times, criminals don’t even know a camera is inside the doorbell. The footage can be helpful to police, even in detecting porch pirates, those who steal packages left by delivery companies.
Most doorbell video cameras can also be connected to a phone app to alert the homeowner while he or she is not in the house that someone is at the front door. Some of these apps even integrate with a two-way speaker, allowing the homeowner to speak to someone ringing the doorbell.
“It makes them think that the homeowner is in the home, which can be enough of a deterrent,” Adler saysid.
Adler has also seen increased requests for security film on windows and door glass. The film his company uses is developed by 3M. While it will not prevent the glass from breaking if struck, it will keep the glass from shattering and holds broken glass pieces in place. Most intruders will likely abandon the situation then, as accessing the premises can still be difficult.
“They will not want to waste their time trying to break in at that point,” he says.
Home automation, connectivity
Jon Perry, president of Las Vegas-based Sting Alarm and Surveillance, says home automation needs have integrated with alarm systems, too. “You have the lifestyle element with thermostats, door locks, garage door openers, it all ties together with security and you can manage it through one platform.”
Perry’s team offers systems that operate through Alarm.com and integrate well with home automation technologies like Amazon’s Alexa. The system, in combination with home automation solutions, allow for homeowners to view security events and concerns from their phone, change lighting configurations, and remotely make other changes to the home environment.
“We started this about seven or eight years ago, really, when we were sending texts and emails to homeowners,” he added. “Now, we have the cameras, thermostats, door locks, doorbell cameras in with it; it’s all together.”
Some of today’s camera technology, Perry notes, has greatly improved with the addition of video analytics. These systems, which are great for monitoring large areas for HOAs and open spaces around golf courses, can identify objects and people more accurately. Where older technology would give alerts based on motion, creating numerous false events, advanced pixilation from video analytics can discern between an actual act like a man jumping a fence as opposed to a neighbor walking his or her dog or an object blown over by heavy wind.
“By no means is every solution perfect, but this definitely works a lot better,” Perry adds.
Everyday tips, busting myths
All three experts say it’s important to use simple crime prevention strategies, regardless of whether you have a home security system or not. Locking all the doors and closing the garage, even if you are home throughout the day, and keeping the windows covered on the first floor are good practice, according to Adler. Some homeowners become lax and leave back doors open at times, thinking criminals use the front door.
“Many think burglaries happen at night, but most happen during the day,” Perry says. “I don’t know if it’s an urban legend. People see it on TV, I guess.”
Perry recommends registering cameras with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Vegas SafeCam community video surveillance program. This way, if a neighbor experiences a crime, your system’s camera footage may help provide information for the investigation.
Perry also says people who think their dog is a sufficient enough alarm system are often misinformed. He also recommends for those who have alarms to keep them set while at home. Some criminals may not think twice about trying to enter, even while someone is home. The practice also keeps a person familiar with the features of their system and in the regular practice of using it.
Adler also said social media apps like Next Door are very popular. They allow neighbors to stay in touch and alert one another to crimes that may have happened or are currently in progress.
“The good thing is with these social media apps, if we catch someone, that news spreads very quickly,” he adds.
Adler asserts that a security system is not intended to make a person feel like a prisoner in their own home. Styles can range from larger cameras so that a potential intruder sees them or extremely subtle eye-in-the sky types of cameras.
“My goal is to set the home up in a way so that they (intruders) don’t even want to try to come in,” the expert says, “but you don’t want to live in a prison with all these cameras around.”