One of the more noteworthy occurrences during the present economic upheaval is reflected by a continuing reduction in crime for the first quarter of this year in Summerlin, n orthwest Las Vegas and, for that matter, the entire city.
The bottom line, and that comes directly from Clark County District Attorney David Roger, is this: T he total crime index is down 32 percent from five years ago, just prior to the start of the economic slide.
Somehow, you would think that it would not make sense, yet the numbers are real. The universal belief always has been that tough times breed more crimes. And, as we all know, times could not be tougher than what we have experienced during the last several years in Las Vegas, a city that is either at the top nationally or near the top in unemployment, home foreclosures and bankruptcies.
"Crime is down in Summerlin, just as it is in the entire n orthwest," Roger said during an interview. "In fact, crime is down throughout the v alley, based on statistics we provided the FBI. The biggest drop by far is in auto theft, which is down 69 percent in Las Vegas from five years ago."
Now that really says something. Bear in mind that for years Las Vegas was the auto theft capital of the universe.
But the numbers in the Uniform Crime Report, compiled by the Metropolitan Police Department, show a sharp reversal, from 5,462 auto thefts in 2006 to 1,722 such crimes for the comparable period this year.
That's just one area of decline in crime. During the same time frame, city wide murder and manslaughter were down 68 percent, robbery was down 34 percent, burglary 19 percent and larceny-theft 17 percent. In fact, every classification in the crime index was down except for aggravated assault, which rose 6 percent.
Roger tells an interesting story to explain how auto thefts have shrunk. "One of the things Metro did was encourage us to buy what we call 'bait cars,' he said. "These are vehicles that are controlled remotely by the police. They're wired both for video and sound."
The bait cars are then placed in areas prone to auto thefts in the past. "Metro keeps a check on movement of the vehicle through the use of a GPS," Roger added. He noted that under state law, aside from possession of a stolen car, you have to show that the person had control of the vehicle, which is a key element in prosecuting the offender.
"So what the police do is stop the vehicle," which they have remotely controlled. "The crooks want to get away, but they can't. They're sitting in the car, and they don't know what's going on. The police have locked the doors and the windows. Then everybody just sits and waits.
"And during that time, the driver and the passenger are concocting the story that they're going to tell the police. Meanwhile, we have audio and video of them talking; that is, the driver and the passenger."
He said the use of bait cars has enabled the system to pay special attention to those who have been involved in multiple auto thefts or who have prior convictions. Of course the success rate in use of the bait cars has been reflected by the reduction of auto thefts.
Roger gave much credit to the Metropolitan Police Department and his own staff for their success in reducing crime generally over the last five years, despite a recent move by the county to cut into his annual budget by 9 percent.
"Every politician will tell you that public safety is the number one issue, the assurance that people are safe in their community," Roger said. "But when it comes to the budget, they just don't prioritize. The criminal justice system and the police should be the number one priority. But that's not the case. It's a problem that I'm fighting. I've tried every which way to explain to the county commissioners that public safety is of upper most importance."
He referred to the need for more deputies to prosecute, "instead of cutting into our staff. But our cries have fallen on deaf ears."
Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He is the author of the novels "Falling Dominoes" and "One At A Time." Contact him at email@example.com.