Updated August 15, 2022 - 6:20 am
Leslie O’Brien’s pickup was stolen from in front of her home near Palace Station last fall. In July, a used truck she had bought to replace it was stolen, too.
Las Vegas police eventually recovered both trucks, which contained items that seemed to be left behind by the thieves. O’Brien also has video evidence in the case, but when she spoke with a detective, she was told the video hadn’t been reviewed because police were too busy investigating other theft cases.
“It makes me mad because I pay taxes, you know?” O’Brien said. “I have always supported my police department, but I don’t feel like I’m getting any support.”
O’Brien’s frustrations come as law enforcement say they’ve seen a significant rise in property crimes in the Las Vegas Valley. Property crimes were up more than 15 percent as of Aug. 5 compared with this time last year in the Metropolitan Police Department’s jurisdiction. The highest increase, of 45 percent, is in the convention center area command, which encompasses the Strip.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said the department has had success in reducing violent crime in the valley since 2021, but that the rise in property crime is an ongoing challenge.
He said burglaries from cars are up 17 percent, stolen vehicles are up 21 percent and both misdemeanor and felony larcenies are up 17 percent.
He said rising costs of just about everything in society seems to be partially to blame. He also said that when thieves are arrested, they aren’t being prosecuted and incarcerated like he would like to see, translating into a cycle of repeat offenders victimizing Southern Nevadans again and again.
Lombardo added he believes Nevada laws need to be strengthened to give stiffer punishments for theft-related offenses.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson did not respond to a request for comment.
Convention center area command Capt. Joshua Bitsko said an increase in tourism compared with this time last year has led to more crimes, requiring around-the-clock police presence along pedestrian bridges on the Strip.
Drug stores along Las Vegas Boulevard have experienced a 39 percent increase in larcenies, Bitsko said, which police suspect is the result of homeless people living near the stores. Intervention officers are patrolling the Strip attempting to offer resources to the unhoused nearby.
“We’re trying a holistic approach,” he said. “We’re not just trying to arrest our way out of the problem.”
Bitsko said property crime statistics are being led by auto burglaries and vehicle thefts from parking garages. He urged residents not to leave valuables in their car, or at least not in plain sight.
“Don’t leave expensive items in cars no matter where it’s parked,” he said.
A California man who rented a 2022 Mercedes-Benz while staying in Las Vegas told police he discovered on July 8 that cash, clothing and a handgun were stolen while the car was parked at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, according to a crime report he filed with Metro.
Although Bitsko said pick pocketing is not among the area command’s major concerns, victims had reported iPhones and purses disappearing after leaving the items out inside casinos.
A 21-year-old man filed a crime report with Metro after he fell asleep on the Strip sidewalk following a night at Aria and woke up on July 1 without his iPhone 13, according to his incident report.
A 74-year-old woman visiting Planet Hollywood Resort filed a report with Metro on July 28 after $1,700 disappeared from the safe in her room, according to her report.
O’Brien said in between the truck thefts, the thieves came to her house and stole some other less valuable items from outside her residence. She has since enhanced her security system and also purchased Mace in case the thieves come back again. Police, meanwhile, said they are continuing to investigate the thefts at her home, but O’Brien believes police and the criminal justice system need to do more.
“You can go into the store and steal anything you want to,” O’Brien said. “They don’t do anything.”