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Can’t have Vegas become ‘crime-ridden’ like other cities, Metro sheriff says

Updated May 13, 2024 - 9:08 am

As Las Vegas continues to grow, Sheriff Kevin McMahill wants to make sure the Las Vegas Valley doesn’t become a hotbed for crime like what has occurred in some other American metropolitan areas.

“Regardless of where I go, I get a lot of questions about keeping Las Vegas safe and making sure that we don’t become crime-ridden like some of these other cities that we see in America,” McMahill said during a Wednesday interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters.

As the elected top cop who oversees the Metropolitan Police Department and its more than 6,000 employees, McMahill shared his thoughts on a number of issues including traffic fatalities, violent and nonviolent crime, his priorities, failures — he has repeatedly referred to last year’s spike in vehicle thefts as a failure — and areas of concern.

He also compares Las Vegas with similarly sized cities around the country and wants to ensure the city doesn’t become like some of the metropolitan areas that have had well-documented struggles with crime in recent years.

“I don’t want to be Denver, I can tell you that,” said McMahill, who is from Denver and was there recently. “I don’t want to be San Francisco, I can tell you that, and the list goes on and on and on.”

A married father of five who rose up through Metro’s ranks over almost three decades, eventually becoming undersheriff before retiring in 2020, then being elected sheriff in 2022, McMahill said it’s his responsibility as an elected official “to make sure that the city doesn’t decay into something that is not recognizable anymore.”

Part of making sure that doesn’t happen, he said, is his focus on three top priorities.

“Violent crime and traffic fatalities are at the very top of my list,” McMahill said. “Also, the third tier of that is the wellness of my police officers. Those are the top three things that I’m focused in on as the sheriff this particular year.

“And the better that I do at all of those, the better our community is going to be,” he said.

Positive strides

McMahill spoke of the homicide rate in Metro’s jurisdiction. As of Wednesday morning, he said, 40 homicides had occurred so far this year in Metro’s jurisdiction, which at that point was about a 22 percent decrease in killings over the same time in 2023, he said.

Another homicide, the fatal shooting of a teen boy, happened Saturday.

McMahill lauded the rate at which homicides are solved by Metro. As of the week that ended May 3, according to the most recently posted statistics on Metro’s website, the department had a 92 percent homicide clearance rate.

“We’re solving almost every homicide that occurs in our jurisdiction,” McMahill said.

McMahill highlighted the reduction in robberies.

That crime was down 19.4 percent in 2023 over the previous year, he said in his 2024 State of the Department speech earlier this year.

And in the roughly first four months of this year, it was down just over 12 percent, according to Metro stats.

‘Not giving up on it’

But one of the thorns in McMahill’s side has been vehicle thefts, which has been spiking across the country thanks in part to a social media trend that helped fuel the thefts nationwide of Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

“The other big one I’d just like to highlight for you, is what I talked about as our failure last year, was our auto theft,” McMahill said, noting that stolen vehicles were up 36.5 percent in 2023.

He said that a singular approach of only arresting and jailing such thieves doesn’t work, and that other measures — educating drivers, helping them to make their cars harder to steal — must be part of the solution.

He spoke of a recent event hosted by Metro and Hyundai in the parking lot of Metro’s headquarters in which more than 1,800 vehicles got anti-theft updates and 7,000 steering wheel locks given out.

According to Metro’s latest statistics, vehicle thefts were down by just over 18 percent between Jan. 1 and the beginning of May compared with the same time in 2023.

“I’m not giving up on it, even though it seems to be that one thing that keeps smacking me around the head a little bit, as far as a number that I can’t seem to make disappear,” McMahill said of vehicle thefts, adding that “we will continue to focus in on reducing that.”

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com

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