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New program focuses on increasing police presence in crime ‘hot spots’

The Metropolitan Police Department is testing a new tactic, the Neighborhood Gateway Project, to thwart crime. The pilot program has the department focusing on places rather than individual criminals.

The strategy comes from a lengthy study conducted by George Mason University. It involved dozens of previous police studies, but the resulting advice was short: Instead of focusing on individual criminals, police should focus on places — a street, a house or an apartment complex.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t go after individuals,” said James Seebock, captain of Metro’s Enterprise Area Command. “… The studies show that 95 percent of your crime in any given region occurs in 5 percent of your geography. For the Las Vegas Valley, the same, for the most part, holds true. There are sections of town that have a disproportionate amount of crime.”

Metro calls these sections “hot spots” and refers to them on a map as a “heat map.” The areas around these spots are known as “gateway zones.”

The George Mason study stipulated that the identity of the place be specific and that police be proactive.

Seebock said the study showed that if an officer was being proactive and got out of his vehicle for at least 15 minutes, walking through an apartment complex or a neighborhood and having some type of interaction, the visual effect of the officer being there continued for at least another 45 minutes after the officer had left the area.

The pilot program began Feb. 1 and will run for three months before it is evaluated for effectiveness.

The Neighborhood Gateway Project is focusing on one neighborhood gateway zone, bordered by Interstate 15, Decatur Boulevard, Spring Mountain Road and Tropicana Avenue. That area has a disproportionate amount of crime, Seebock said, in certain pockets, qualifying them as “micro hot spots.”

There were nine micro hot spots identified for the pilot program. Metro is now enforcing the 15-minute strategy in those areas daily every 90 minutes, for every shift.

Officers make their presence known by walking the area, introducing themselves to residents, taking note of names, identifying factors such as tattoos and learning where the people live. The information goes into a database and is readily available to any officer for future reference.

Its effectiveness will determine whether to implement the gateway approach in other areas of town or to scrap the program.

Numbers for the first 28 days show that the area reported 17 auto burglaries (versus 20 for the previous 28-day stretch); eight commercial burglaries (versus 10); two single-family residential burglaries (versus five); and nine multi-family residential burglaries (versus 22).

“A lot of that crime is being displaced, and, in my mind, a lot is being prevented,” Seebock said.

That’s the enforcement angle. Another aspect is the community-oriented/problem-oriented policing angle, where Metro works with apartment managers, keeping them informed of incidents that occurred on their properties and identifying the needs of the community. That could entail identifying resource needs such as with faith-based organizations or after-school programs such as the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“What we’re getting from the apartment managers, especially the Neighborhood Gateway Zone, is that they like to see us in there, interacting with the community for other than law enforcement purposes,” said Lt. Ron Fox. “It’s nice to be able to go in there and talk with the kids, talk with people.”

That kind of interaction makes residents more apt to come forth with information.

“(There can be) intimidation of talking to police behind a car door,” Seebock said. “That’s the importance of getting out of the vehicle, not just for enforcement but interacting with them. What they’re sharing with us are concerns within their own complex, their own community. Some of those concerns we can bring to the attention of those who can help fix those problems. For example, ‘There’s poor lighting in my part of the complex.’ We can bring that to the attention of the apartment manager. ‘Hey, there’s a speed issue with this stretch of road, and these kids can’t cross safely.’ … We can help make those changes so people can take back their community.”

Metro has been encouraging complexes to be proactive. The Buffalo Highlands Apartments complex on West Charleston Boulevard, for example, installed about $2,000 worth of extra lighting recently. It also posted new notices and implemented a strict policy on parking to keep out undesirables. Apartment managers have used the Internet’s latest tools, such as, in the past to identify criminals who have applied for a lease.

When it comes to breaking into homes, criminals have been known to target affluent areas.

“All neighborhoods have crime,” said Aaron Lee, a Metro detective based at the Northwest Area Command. “… Why do they come to the nice neighborhoods? Because there’s nice stuff there. Burglars aren’t stupid.”

Seebock said the area being studied is a corridor through which many people, including residents who live around Summerlin, often travel.

Officer Tim Baker’s coverage area is west of Durango Drive between Flamingo Road and Charleston Boulevard. He said the Summerlin area is a different animal.

“It tends to be a little more upper class, a little more affluent, so I’d say the problems are different than by the casinos, by the freeway,” he said. “Property crimes would be the biggest problem.”

Seebock said, “Responding to calls doesn’t reduce crime. Being proactive reduces crime.”

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.