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Metro asks county to ban backpacks, strollers at big Strip events

Ringing in the new year on the Las Vegas Strip came with a new command from the Metropolitan Police Department: No large bags or strollers.

The security measure came in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

What wasn’t stated in the mass messaging campaign? The bag boycott wasn’t enforceable.

Now Metro wants the Clark County Commission to give the backpack ban the authority of an ordinance for massive events, such as New Year’s Eve, that shut down the Strip.

“If people showed up with backpacks there was nothing we could do about it,” said Chuck Callaway, Metro’s director for intergovernmental affairs. “In a way, it was kind of a bluff.”

Callaway said Metro is only asking to be able to bar opaque bags from the Strip on massive events that shut down the street. Metro decided to get rid of opaque bags for 2016’s celebration after what Callaway characterized as hard conversations in light of recent terrorist attacks.

In 2013, backpacks kept the Boston Marathon crowds from noticing bombs that would kill three and wound 264.

So far Metro has had a good track record when it comes to New Year’s Eve safety on the Strip.

“We don’t want to wait until something has happened and then have a knee-jerk reaction,” Callaway said. “We’d like to have something in place ahead of time before something happens.”

Some 300,000 revelers saw the arrival of 2016 on the Strip.

Just having a bag wouldn’t lead to a booking.

Metro would like an ordinance that requires the officer to warn the person first. Only after they refuse to comply would they face arrest. Officers would be empowered to issue citations.

Strollers, which can also conceal weapons, would also be banned, Callaway said.

“We’re not looking at creating a new law that would allow us to arrest a bunch of people,” Callaway said.

“We want this to be a fun environment for everyone. We don’t normally take someone into custody unless it’s a last resort.”

This past year Metro made eight arrests on the Strip during the New Year’s Eve party. The year prior, 19.

Callaway said Metro wouldn’t expect the resorts to help with enforcement, but would like their assistance in getting out the message.

Commissioners were supportive of the idea, though there were questions about multitudes of retailers on the Strip that use bags. Callaway suggested looking into asking businesses to use clear bags and handing out clear bags.

“Public safety on these big events I think supersedes someone shopping at the mall,” said Commissioner Larry Brown.

The commission directed staff to draft an ordinance, which will come before commissioners at a later date.

Contact Bethany Barnes at bbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes

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