LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to attend the NFL Draft events on the Las Vegas Strip this week, bringing huge expectations for security. 13 Investigates looks at the precautions in place to keep everyone safe.
"We both lived here during 1 October, so we knew that Las Vegas changed ever since then," said Jorge Mondaca.
He and Amanda Baker are Las Vegas locals. In fact, Mondaca is our digital director at KTNV.
The couple recently stayed on the Strip while Baker participated in one of our city's big events: the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
When they checked into their room at Resorts World, Baker found a security message from the property's management team which read: "Rooms facing south of Las Vegas Boulevard will undergo a brief and non-intrusive inspection conducted by Resorts World Security on Sunday, February 27."
"Since 1 October, a lot of hotel policies have changed as it relates to the expectation of privacy in the room," said Adam Coughran.
Coughran is a security consultant who spent 19 years as a police officer in Orange County, Calif. with the tourist-oriented policing unit.
"Anytime we have a large group of people gathering, it's always a security concern," Coughran said.
With pandemic restrictions still in place, last year's NFL Draft in Cleveland drew about 160,000 people.
The crowds in Las Vegas this week are expected to be much larger: 400,000 or more. Coughran explained that guests — especially those whose rooms face critical areas — should expect to have their hotel rooms inspected.
"So, it's often in that fine print," said Coughran, "when booking a hotel room, all the things that you agree and accept."
He says in the past, security at large events was focused on the ground level. But 1 October changed that.
"Someone has taken an elevated position — and really, a sniper position — to try to harm a bunch of people. That absolutely plays in the equation," Coughran said.
Staff at all levels are now trained to look for things that are out of place, like weapons or power tools.
"In other words, items that people usually would not bring with them on vacation or be bringing into a hotel room," Coughran said.
They also look for specific behaviors that would raise a red flag.
"In addition to looking for suspicious items, they're also going to be looking for whether rooms have been rearranged, things that have been tampered with," he said.
And the visual security inspections won't be stopped by a privacy placard. Rooms can be checked at least every 24 hours. But it could be more, especially during big events.
"You may get more aggressive policies where the hotels are actually coming in maybe every 8 hours to check on what's going on in that room, or every 5 hours," Coughran said.
"They actually came multiple times, knocking on the door," Baker recalled.
That's how it worked at Resorts World during the marathon.
"And they came in quietly," Mondaca added. "They looked around. I said, 'go ahead and look.' They checked out the room. They were in there maybe 15 seconds, tops. Checked out the room, made sure there was nothing near the windows. They were really specific about looking around the windows."
Resorts World sent 13 Investigates this statement:
Resorts World Las Vegas security works closely with local law enforcement to follow their guidance and go above and beyond normal every day security measures to do our part in keeping visitors safe and ensuring a positive guest experience at our resort.
Mondaca and Baker see the room checks as a trade-off to make sure we're all OK and feel safe.
Coughran says we should also expect police to be out in force during the draft.
"You're going to see the increased presence of the uniforms," he said. "You're going to see the increased presence of the police dogs."
And for all the security you can see, there's plenty you cannot; from plain clothes officers to intel teams monitoring social media for chatter of threats, to extra personnel watching traffic and security cameras.
Coughran says people attending the draft events play a role, too.
"If they see something suspicious, or they see something that doesn't quite look right, to grab a uniform, to tell a security officer or a police officer that something is suspicious or this person is acting weird for further investigation," Coughran said.
Our local couple has their own message for Vegas visitors.
"Be kind to our city," Mondaca said. "We've gone through a lot — just like other cities around the country and around the world, unfortunately. So if this is the little thing that you have to do, then just have patience with us because, if nothing else, it just makes us feel a little bit better that we know that people are checking, at least."
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department declined to talk about security during the draft and said they are not doing interviews about their plan. MGM said the same. Caesars did not respond to our inquiry. Most of the draft activities are taking place at or near MGM and Caesars properties.
Find more in-depth reporting from 13 Investigates at ktnv.com/13-investigates.