The extreme (and intolerable) levels of crime on the Las Vegas Strip became the feature of a series of reports by the ‘I-Team’ from Channel 8. I guess I would have to wonder if Captain Tomaino and Deputy Chief Schofield gave permission for the ride-alongs and the details to be provided to the public because the story was not pretty. Heads can ‘roll’ when Metro is embarrassed, just like they did when the helicopter was used for a marriage proposal and when Stanley Gibson was killed due to radio problems and other communication failures.
There have also been other incidents when ‘censorship’ failed. The first story in the series, ‘New breed of criminal on the Las Vegas Strip’ reported on trick rolls that turn into assaults and robberies.
The reality is that there is nothing ‘new’ about the disorder and violence on the Strip. Featured Officer (Calvin Wandick) is indeed a ‘supercop’ and he described the pedestrian bridges as a circus. He can’t say it, but one of the reasons (for the continuing disorder and violence) is that the Metro administration did not listen to street cops up to a decade ago.
(MY EXPERIENCE: I’ve got plenty of written records and documentation where as a patrol officer and as a supervisor I was trying to draw some attention to what was happening. We were ignored because Metro Vice under former Lieutenant Karen Hughes and Sgt. John Hayes and the casino cabals did not want us to deal with the prostitution-related crime. They wanted it to be solely their ‘turf’ and, I’m afraid, they ‘reaped’ the rewards, while some of us were RAPED of our policing careers. This is no exaggeration folks!) Wandick went on to describe robberies, hustlers and drug peddlers along with rampant prostitution that is, ‘more about robbery than sex.’ Sgt. Mike Ford explained, “Prostitution is at a whole different level than any of us have ever seen up here on the Strip. It’s really taken over. It’s exploded.” More than half of the felonies and acts of violence are linked to the robbery rings that use prostitutes as bait.
Gangs, teams of pickpockets, major drug operations, auto theft up and down the Strip are nightly realities.
The I-Team was given total access to tag along with the teams who are on the front lines. Veteran officers say they’ve never seen anything like it. There’s a new breed of criminal on the Strip. They’re highly organized, relentless, and ubiquitous. Metro is out there every night, but at times it feels like trying to hold back the ocean with their fingers. It takes a special breed of cop to handle this work.
(MY EXPERIENCE: The ‘special’ cops better be on guard that they will have to deal with the ‘politics’ of the Strip and the ‘corrupted’ policing system on the Strip).
“A new wave and new breed of working girls is at the heart of the crime explosion in the tourist corridor. Prostitution is linked to more than half of the serious crime Metro sees each night, including
assaults and homicides. It’s not a victimless offense.” “You have your trick rolls, your pickpockets, gang involvement, pimp involvement.
There’s a lot of violence, said Sgt. Francois Obasi, Metro team leader on the Strip.”
“Two squads of uniformed officers work the Strip at night. Their nightly briefings are loaded with tales of new and egregious crimes and suspects. A jewelry store hit for $700,000, two white females pulling armed robberies out of their car, a kidnapping scam targeting locals. It’s a depressing lineup of villainy, but on this night, the team got good news from their captain. Reinforcements are on the way.
The squads will increase from six to 10 officers each. They’ll need it.
(MY EXPERIENCE: It is not only the number of officers on a squad. It really comes down to having crime fighters rather than secretaries with a badge. Far too many officers will only take a report and will avoid making an arrest or being assertive because they are either lazy or only care about ‘career survival.’ At one point, I would say this is a farce. After losing my job because I was targeted, I have to say that career survival IS a valid choice—albeit cowardly and selfish in some ways.)
I was surprised to see that officers are now actually entering casinos and seeking out known and suspected prostitutes. “At least once a night, they march into one or more casino properties to disrupt the rampant prostitution trade that has overwhelmed hotel security teams.
They are organized (criminal) operations that are more about robbery than sex. The tourist hopes for a clandestine romp. The prostitutes and pimps have a whole different game plan. They want to take everything. You know, they want the money, the property, the credit cards, everything” Officer Wandick said.” During one foray into a casino, six suspects were ‘corralled’ within 10 minutes.
(MY EXPERIENCE: I worked the Strip under Captain Charles Hank and Captain Todd Fasulo; we were strongly cautioned about doing foot patrols inside the hotel/casino doors. Casino ‘big wigs’ didn’t like Metro lurking around on their property and several of them are former Metro employees and administrators. They were not shy in expressing their opinions to force us out and only enter the ‘back door’ when they had suspects in custody in their holding rooms.)
If you haven’t been to the Strip lately, be forewarned!!
(MY EXPERIENCE: This is not going to make the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority happy). Uniformed Strip officers are the ‘first line of defense’ projecting a strong police presence on the streets and sidewalks.
The word, “Predators” was used to describe prostitution rings that are now prominent in most casinos with nightclubs and how prevalent criminals were on the Strip.
(MY EXPERIENCE: I have multiple emails where I used the same descriptive word about the criminals on the Strip nearly a DECADE ago but I could not have pronounced it publicly).
Ford claimed, “There are five or more trick rolls per night and many more that are never reported because the victim doesn’t want his wife to know.” “They show up, get to your room, spike your drink with a sedative and you wake up 15 hours later with your Rolex and credit cards missing; all that stuff is gone.” Ford also referred to gangs involved in human trafficking and he pointed out dozens of people selling narcotics and also smut peddlers and how they sometimes ‘work’ together. Teams of five or more thieves will hit a club and walk out with as many as 40 cell phones in a night. “Absolutely, it’s organized crime,” said Sgt. Ford (referring to nightclub thefts).
Tragically, Sgt. Mike Ford passed away at the same time that the series was being aired. The I-Team had been working with Ford for several weeks in setting up the stories. George Knapp made a concluding statement, “One thing he (Sgt. Ford) wanted to see happen is for elected officials and maybe some casino bosses to ride along and see for themselves what it is like out there at night.” Ford was right about the importance of awareness but we also tried this strategy a DECADE ago! I found that Metro administrators couldn’t care less and I don’t suspect anything will change this time. There is nobody responsible for restoring order or stopping the beat downs and brain bleeds! Metro’s Merry-Go-Round continues on the Strip.
Norm Jahn served with the LVMPD for over 21 years and achieved the rank of lieutenant. He also served as a police chief in Wisconsin for over three years. Jahn has been a university professor and also taught in the criminal justice program at the College of Southern Nevada for over a decade. Jahn received a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from UNLV. He has researched police performance and the management and leadership of police departments.
His weekly column focuses on current policing issues, especially those involving the LVMPD. Norm provides ‘insight with an edge’ to inform the public and improve policing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.