Local News


Violent crimes dramatic increase in Las Vegas

Posted at 6:35 PM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 09:00:38-05
New on Action News: A cry echoing throughout our valley.
We're talking about a steep increase in violent crime.
People in the community aren't just scared though. Everyone at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is worried too. And we're talking from the Sheriff on down.  
Everyone agrees there's a big problem, but they don't agree on why.
Listen closely to these numbers. Comparing January through the beginning of March last year to the same time this year, Metro reports an 88% increase in homicides and up to 50% more violent crimes in certain areas of town.  
The statistics are scary enough, but some say, it's Metro's fault.
A woman in her twenties. Shot in the head, pushed out of a car and left to die in the street. The 34th homicide of 2016 has law enforcement on edge.
 "And it's unusually high level of homicides for this time of the year," says Lt. Dan McGrath with Metro. "It's concerning to everybody from the Sheriff on down.
Metro says they don't know why violent crime is up, but say it's on the rise across the country. And they're trying to figure out how to fight it.
"Uniformed cops on the streets make a difference," says Deputy Chief Jim Owens with Metro's Community Policing Division. "And so we initiated this violent crimes initiative where we've enlisted the assistance of a number of detectives to come out and work with patrol actually in the field being very visible. Talking to the residents. Particularly talking to those who are committing violent crimes."
Lt. McGrath and other detectives are part of this decentralization process. Metro says it's designed to push expertise out to area commands to increase officer presence and respond more quickly to crimes where and when they happen.
"And we all have to support it because this is unacceptable level of violence, and from my perspective, a lot of it is over nothing," says Lt. McGrath. "It's over these small little fights and small amount of drugs and stupid things that result in somebody losing a life and somebody maybe going to prison for the rest of their life."
But the police union says decentralization is the problem. And putting detectives on routine patrol pulls them away from what they do best.
"We don't think decentralization was a success," says Mark Chaparian, Executive Director of Las Vegas Police Protective Association.  "We don't think it will be a success if the goal was to reduce crime. We don't see it. We see the opposite. I don't think it's coincidental that we've moved into a decentralization, non-speciality detective enforcement mode and our crime rate has gone up. I think there's cause and effect there."
The union says with decentralization, detectives who specialize in things like gang and drug enforcement might not be getting those cases anymore, so expertise is lost.  
Another major problem limiting police work? More than 500 fewer beds in the Clark County Jail.
Officers say they can make arrests all day long, but with no place to put the bad guys, you can't take them off the streets.