LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Boarded up businesses and a run on guns brings to mind images of looting and potentially dangerous confrontations.
We asked police how they plan to protect the public and themselves during this pandemic when wood-covered windows and padlocked doors are the new “now” with all nonessential businesses forced to close for the next few weeks.
"Obviously there are areas that have started to cause us concern--security around places where the larger crowds are going, grocery stores, big box stores."
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's Assistant Sheriff Chris Jones says LVMPD speaks almost daily with those corporations and has increased police presence at many of their locations around the valley.
"We have not seen civil unrest," said Jones, adding that so far, people are being decent.
"And we want that to continue. But with respect to security for businesses that are closed or companies that are closed and no one is there, we've also stepped up our patrols. So you'll see more officers in the strip malls."
Patrolling and hoping to prevent break-ins and burglaries by people well aware nobody’s inside.
"We haven't seen that increase yet. We did anticipate with all of these businesses being closed a potential rise in burglaries to those facilities, and like I say, we were ahead of that. We deployed strategically."
Downtown business only recently boarded up are already marred by graffiti. For now, one might say that appears to be the most prevalent new crime.
Otherwise, streets are largely empty with few cars and even fewer pedestrians.
As for residential crime, LVMPD doesn’t anticipate a rise, saying with more people home, criminals are less likely to break in.
"During crisis or during economic downturns, your average citizen does not turn to crime," Jones explained. "That's not the way it happens. Instead what we see is people who are already engaged in criminal activity tend to increase their criminal activity and they also tend to get creative, thinking of new ways to victimize people, like going door to door and pretending to be from a utility or devising online or telephone scams."
North Las Vegas City Councilman Richard Cherchio in his March 23 newsletter wrote, "An alarming number of residents have reported receiving text messages urging the user to visit a fake census website and sign up in order to receive a stimulus check from the U.S. government, amid other false claims. This is the only website available to complete the Census form. Please know that there is absolutely no connection between the proposed coronavirus stimulus package and the 2020 Census count. The details for the stimulus package are still being worked out, so anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer."
Cherchio says residents should be cautious of fraudsters who may text, email, use social media, or come door-to-door to promote scams as they use deception, ask for victim donations, or offer advice on unproven treatments or send harmful attachments and links.
LVMPD says the biggest uptick in crime they anticipate will be domestic violence and child abuse.
"We made sure that every one of our captains had something in place to address what we potentially could see coming."
And while they’re out protecting us, we asked how they’ll protect themselves after the department announced dozens of potential virus exposures for their staff.
"We've loaded up all of our area commands and all of our jails -- all of our critical areas -- with personal protective equipment that we've been fortunately able to acquire from our private sector partners. I can't tell you how amazingly helpful the casino industry and the resort industry has been."
The main message police want to get out there is that desperate times do not have to call for desperate measures.
There's no doubt we're living under extreme circumstances right now but police are counting on the public to partner with them in practicing respect and responsibility.