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News, Tips & Bargains : Pickpocket Alert in Las Vegas

Las Vegas police are warning tourists to keep an eye on their belongings--and on the people standing next to them--as a way of thwarting pickpockets whose numbers have increased in the past year.

“With the shows and bright lights, tourists get distracted, and they tend to let down their defenses,” said Lt. Dan Mahony of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Mahony said visitors are being urged to stay alert by posters on buses and in McCarran airport, and in radio and newspaper announcements. He also said tourists should limit the amount of cash they carry.

Although the police spokesman declined to release statistics on the number of pickpockets working the town, previously published reports said police received 84 complaints of wallets and purses being lifted from Strip bus passengers between August and Nov. 1, about half of the total incidents citywide, and 80 reports since Nov. 1. Mahony said two teams of pickpockets were arrested in December and are awaiting trial.

Two popular targets have been the crowded buses that shuttle visitors along the Strip, and the sidewalk in front of Treasure Island, where about 3,000 spectators congregate each time the “Battle of Buccaneer Bay” is staged. “There are lots of pyrotechnics and lots of activity” during every eight-minute show, said Treasure Island spokesman Alan Feldman. . “The audience is pretty well consumed during the show, trying to see and hear.” Feldman said the resort is working with police but has not posted warnings “because the problem seems fairly isolated. If dozens of thefts were happening, we would. Pickpockets are generally a problem in a tourist community, but Las Vegas may be more subject to them because there is so much cash.” He warned those planning to visit Las Vegas during major events, such as the Jan. 28 lightweight championship fight at the MGM Grand, to be especially careful because “pickpockets are usually in evidence when there are big fights.”

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