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Fremont Street Experience steps up security with metal detectors, more

Visitors to the Fremont Street Experience will be required to go through metal detectors, bag checks and be subject to age requirements to enter the Las Vegas pedestrian mall in a new step to curb increased violence.

Metal detectors, bag checks, a curfew for unaccompanied minors and 18- to 2o-year-olds, and increased law enforcement presence will be used on weekends until further notice, according to Fremont Street Experience officials. The security measures come in response to increased aggravated assaults and a recent homicide at the downtown tourist spot.

“The safety and security of our guests, employees and tenants has been and will always be our priority,” Andrew Simon, Fremont Street Experience’s president and CEO, said in an emailed statement. “Everything else is secondary. The incidents from the past week cannot and will not be tolerated. Our tourism, jobs and safety will not be threatened by these actions.”

More violent crime reported this year

Public safety officials have noticed the increase in violent crime on and around the five-block district, where visitors often gather to visit casinos, see concerts, drink and gawk at the canopied video screen.

Metro Capt. Hector Cintron, who runs the downtown area command for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said there have been 45 aggravated assaults reported so far in 2022, compared with 27 at this point last year. Five of those related to firearms and most others related to injuries sustained from fighting. And, there have been 20 reported robberies so far this year compared to 14 by the same time in 2021.

Police measure crime related to the Fremont Street Experience within the east-west borders of Eighth to Main streets and the north-south borders of U.S. 95 to Bridger Avenue to include foot traffic to and from the attraction, Cintron said.

“We haven’t pinpointed exactly what the difference is from last year to this year, pertaining to specific individuals,” Cintron said. “We just seem to be having an uptick in violent crime out there.”

Scrutiny intensified this week, when shots were fired during a fight early Monday. And, a June 19 armed fight on the mall ended in a 16-year-old fatally shooting a man and wounding a bystander.

The Review-Journal reviewed data from the department on investigations into reported crimes closer to the Fremont Street Experience, including the businesses leading to the pedestrian mall and one block east of the mall’s entrance, to Sixth Street, where visitors may keep walking to many other popular restaurants and bars.

That data show reported aggravated assaults and robberies are up so far this year compared with 2021. Metro investigated seven reported robberies in the first half of 2021 and four in the second half; it investigated 11 through June of this year. The department also investigated 34 reported aggravated assaults so far this year, compared to 39 in all of 2021.

“Fremont Street Experience has, really, thousands of people on it, especially Friday and Saturday nights,” Cintron said. “The stages down there have very large crowds around them. Alcohol consumption contributes to people’s loss of their ability to think rationally at some point. And a majority of these calls stemmed from an altercation or verbal exchange that may lead to a fight and that’s where we were having this.”

Metro began an increased incident plan on Thursday night, Cintron said. That included more officers on-site between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and more interaction between the gang unit, homeland saturation team and flex teams from other area commands.

Other crime deterrence

Earlier this week, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she and Fremont Street stakeholders were considering increased security measures at the attraction, including a potential curfew for anyone under 21.

The city already has a curfew for anyone under 18 years of age. Minors cannot be unaccompanied between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. of the next day, Sundays through Thursdays, and midnight through 5 a.m. of the next day on Fridays and Saturdays. City officials confirmed that curfew applies to the Fremont Street Experience as well. The expanded curfew proposal would capture 18- to 20-year-olds and possibly have different hours, spokesman Jace Radke said.

Fremont Street officials support the expanded curfew idea as a city ordinance, which will likely not apply to a minor with a parent or guardian or someone lawfully working at the attraction. Simon said the organization believes the proposal “will be essential in our efforts moving forward.”

In the meantime, Fremont’s increased security won’t allow patrons under 21 without a parent or guardian after 8 p.m. during special events on weekends, Simon said.

It may be several weeks until a new city curfew takes effect, if at all. Goodman directed the city attorney to look into the idea, and a proposal must go through the City Council before approval.

Simon also noted that the attraction uses 300 cameras for surveillance across the five blocks for security. The FSE security officers wear HD cameras, he said, and the entity installed the “multi-million-dollar” Shotpoint system, a gunshot detection system, under the canopy in 2020.

Feeling safe

Officials say the goal of increased police presence is about having more officers available to react to crowds or violence, and to make visitors feel safe while downtown. Business owners in the surrounding area have been involved in the security planning. Derek Stevens, who runs three downtown casinos, said in a statement that he fully supports the coordinated action plan.

“There is no question we will clean up Fremont Street,” Stevens, CEO of Circa, The D Las Vegas and the Golden Gate, said in a statement.

Veronica Roque works at a kiosk selling bags and other accessories to Fremont Street visitors. She said she supports a larger law enforcement presence at night.

“I like it here, but sometimes it’s a little dangerous,” Roque said, referring to the recent gun violence and panhandlers. “I see a lot of security here all the time. Always when I ask for security, they’re here with me. I have a number to call if something happens, so I don’t have much to complain about.”

Others worry about how officers could react or be perceived. Chase, a graphic designer at a Fremont Street kiosk who declined to share his last name, said he expects some people may feel uncomfortable around police, though he personally would feel safer. He said he supports solutions that address crowd control such as metal detectors and barriers.

Still, he’s concerned that a sanitized Fremont Street will lose its appeal because some visitors like the rowdy nature.

“I saw a fight just outside the gift shop here,” he said. “Someone choked someone out and then just left them there. Then, I saw tourists just walking by, filming it. I’m not any better just sitting here, but I’m not making it a whole social media thing that’s like, ‘Oh, look what I saw back in Vegas.’”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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