LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Las Vegas Strip and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department are tackling two opponents at once with the recent uptick of violence seen during the pandemic.
"This has been something that has been unprecedented and something I didn't think I'd see in my lifetime," said Larry Hadfield, with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Hadfield says the months-long shutdown of the Strip set up a recovery process leaders are still figuring out.
"You have the hotels opening and you're drawing these crowds of folks that have been cooped up in different states," he explained.
Hadfield said tighter restrictions in California and many experts believe reduced prices at Vegas hotels have drawn a different crowd and in some cases, that includes gangs.
He says those factors have led to an uptick in crimes on the Strip.
According to LVMPD's most recent weekly crime report (ending on Oct. 10), aggravated assaults were up 5% in the city as a whole and 35% on the Strip, compared to this time last year.
Physical fights are also up 3%, with videos becoming more common on social media.
One of those fights happened on Labor Day weekend in the lobby of the Encore.
"Do we like that? Absolutely not. Do we tolerate it? No," said Todd Fasulo, VP of security at the Wynn Las Vegas.
He says that fight led to the company filing a lawsuit against 20 unknown people and a series of new security protocols. Those include a weapons and bag search at the door on weekends and additional Wynn and LVMPD officers on the floor.
"We thought that it would be important that our guests felt the minute they walk through the door that they felt they were being kept safe and secure while they enjoy the inside of the hotel," Fasulo said.
The idea is for guests to enjoy their experience, with them hopefully returning - something Las Vegas desperately needs.
The Wynn Resort announced Tuesday that Encore will be open four days a week because of low demand, and Fasulo said while the virus poses a more unpredictable threat to Las Vegas, resort security teams and LVMPD know how to go on the offensive.
"The LVMPD has really pulled out the stopgaps to assist the hotel industry and the presence on the Strip is like no other," Fasulo said.
That presence like no other is a tactic LVMPD calls Operation Persistent Pressure. The new endeavor has the department shifting resources to the Strip on Friday and Saturday nights - adding up to as many as 100 officers.
"We have our officers looking into those crowds, looking for the potential trouble makers out there," said Hadfield.
Last weekend, officers made 700 stops and arrested 85 people.
Hadfield stressed this is not racial profiling and said stop and frisk don't exist. To make stops, officers need to have probable cause, reasonable suspicion or make a consensual stop.
"For those who think they're getting picked on, I would say this - look at your behavior before you start picking on the police as far as 'why are they looking at me?' Look at what you're doing. And if those individuals are the ones complaining and in the fights or these types of disturbances involving shootings, then that's exactly where the police need to be. It's not for the folks out there just walking around having a good time. It's for those individuals who are out there causing a problem," said Hadfield.