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Shooting on Strip didn’t devastate Las Vegas tourism

A widely publicized shooting in the heart of a tourist area can’t hold Las Vegas down.

A year ago, prosecutors say, Ammar Harris shot Kenneth Clutch Cherry Jr. while the two were driving separate vehicles on the Strip in the early morning hours.

When Cherry was shot, he crashed his car into a taxi, which burst into flames, killing the driver, Michael Boldon, and his passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund of Maple Valley, Wash.

When the story reached local, national and international news outlets, some said Las Vegas tourism would limp along for the rest of 2013, ailing from the negative publicity.

That didn’t happen.

In 2013, 39.67 million people visited Las Vegas, down 0.1 percent from 2012’s record number of visitors, 39.73 million, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported.

While visitation was down 1.3 percent in February 2013 from February 2012, the shooting can hardly be blamed, as it happened late in the month. March 2013 visitation was up 0.1 percent from 2012.

Today, it’s clear the events had no effect on the city’s tourism industry.

“The LVCVA, Las Vegas resorts and law enforcement agencies work closely to maintain a safe and secure experience for our visitors and residents,” convention authority spokeswoman Dawn Christensen said in a statement.

She added that Las Vegas is among the world’s safest travel destinations and uses the most advanced training and technology to maintain a secure environment, including 37 new surveillance cameras the Metropolitan Police Department recently installed in the resort corridor to assist in monitoring safety and security.

During peak hours, the cameras are manned by individuals who help recognize problems before they begin, allowing officers time to alleviate situations before they escalate.

Metro public information officer Jesse Roybal said the department’s also allocated extra manpower to the tourist corridor from other areas around the city in the past year.

“We understand this is the lifeblood of our community,” Roybal said.

Unfortunately, while one of the more dramatic shootings, the events of a year ago weren’t isolated. In late October, Benjamin Frazier opened fire inside Bally’s after an argument at the entrance to Drai’s After Hours nightclub, killing Kenneth Brown, who tried to help diffuse the situation.

After the October shooting, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he didn’t consider the two Strip shootings evidence of a trend.

Roybal said the Strip is one of the safest places to be, if you look at its long history.

“No matter what, the Strip is a big focus for the police department for obvious reasons,” Roybal said. “It’s a place we want (people) to feel safe to go.”

He added that the shooting a year ago was an anomaly.

“This is one of the most egregious acts we’ve seen on the Strip. It’s so egregious, he’s possibly facing the death penalty,” Roybal said.

Harris’ trial is set for Sept. 8. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

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