Las Vegas resorts increase security amid shootings, fights on the Strip
The pandemic isn’t the only thing raising safety concerns among visitors to Las Vegas since Strip resorts began reopening in early June. Street fights, shootings and a stabbing — many caught on cellphone cameras and posted on social media — have resulted in beefed-up police patrols and the use of metal detectors and other security measures at resorts.
The Cosmopolitan and Wynn-Encore have responded by screening visitors to the resorts with metal-detecting wands on weekends, when the number of visitors, many from Southern California, surges. Security officers also are searching handbags.
“Once you are scanned with the wand … we will inspect the contents of your purse, your bag, your backpack, fanny pack, briefcase [and] larger bags,” said Todd Fasulo, the Wynn vice president in charge of security and a former assistant sheriff with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “We’re looking for weapons and mainly guns.”
Visitors to The Cosmopolitan are asked to provide a reason for entering the resort, such as a room or restaurant reservation or whether they want to gamble in the casino. Guests are no longer allowed to bring drinks inside the resort.
The 14-day quarantines are over for those who can show a fresh negative COVID-19 test.
The violence is due in part to the pandemic and an increase in gang activity, according to law enforcement officials. “We are noticing that a good portion of our crime, particularly in the tourist corridor, is occurring from out-of-state visitors,” Metro Police Capt. Dori Koren told Clark County commissioners earlier this month. “Particularly [with] the felonies, we’re noticing an increase in gang members from other states.”
“The entire United States doesn’t have the same feel that we are used to,” Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week. “This pandemic has really changed the dynamics of what every jurisdiction is dealing with.”
Seven shootings and a stabbing have happened since mid-July on Las Vegas Boulevard, the busy tourist corridor often perceived as safe. Four people were wounded in incidents, which include:
- A shooting Sept. 22 in front of Aria that police linked to a birthday celebration for rapper Moneybagg Yo. One person was injured.
- The discharge of a handgun on the casino floor at MGM Grand during an Oct. 2 struggle. No one was hurt.
- A shooting outside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood on Oct. 11, three days after the resort reopened. One man was sent to the hospital.
- A shooting early Monday morning near Planet Hollywood. No one was hurt; three men were arrested.
In a Sept. 9 incident, police shot and killed a 37-year-old man who charged at them with a knife along the Strip near Elvis Presley Boulevard.
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Visitors can expect to see more officers patrolling the sidewalks and streets, often in SUVs with lights flashing. The sheriff said he is “100% confident” that Metro’s Operation Persistent Pressure, aided by beefed-up security teams at various hotel-casinos, can curb the increase in crime.
The Wynn’s Fasulo believes his resort’s heightened security is an effective deterrent. “We have had a number of people that will see the screening, decide not to be screened and leave on their own,” he said. “With my cop hat on, I’ll say that’s a ‘win,’ no pun intended.”
Scenes of the disturbances, including a Sept. 5 melee inside Encore, have been shared on social media, prompting some to question whether Las Vegas is a safe destination.
“There’s a great deal of concern,” said Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor, a newsletter for frequent visitors. He said many readers have reached out to him about the violence. “There’s no doubt that there’s more to worry about, no question.”
Officials at the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, the agency charged with promoting the city, declined to comment. In a written statement, President and Chief Executive Steve Hill acknowledged, “2020 has been anything but normal,” and praised policing and security measures intended to “discourage criminal behavior.”
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Metro officials also declined to be interviewed. However, the police department website provides tips on personal safety. They include being aware of your surroundings, not accepting drinks from people you’ve just met and not propping open your hotel room door.
When Planet Hollywood reopened Oct. 8, it was with the caveat that its hotel rooms would be available Thursdays to Sundays only. Beginning this week, the Encore tower at Wynn will close from noon on Mondays to 2 p.m. on Thursdays. At both resorts, sluggish midweek tourism — not violent events — is being blamed.
The two largest players on the Strip, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, won’t reveal their security strategies other than to say they are working more closely with Metro. In a prepared statement, an MGM Resorts spokesman added, “We don’t believe that recent high-profile incidents are reflective of Las Vegas and the safety of our properties on the Strip.”
This August’s visitor tally, 1.5 million, was down 57% compared to August 2019. However, the daily traffic count on Interstate 15 at the California-Nevada state line dropped just 9%, an indication that the largest segment of visitors is driving in from Southern California. As in the past, most come on weekends.
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