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Las Vegas Strip massacre will force hotels to rethink security

Updated October 2, 2017 - 8:45 pm

The deadliest shooting in U.S. history will force the nation’s hotel industry to rethink security procedures, but there may be little new they can do now to prevent such events, experts say.

Hotels can’t install metal detectors or other elements deemed intrusive without damaging the whole concept of hospitality that is at the heart of their business, academics said Monday.

Hotel operators will have to rely even more on the eyes and ears of regular employees such as housekeeping staff and front desk workers to detect and report unusual behavior.

“No matter what we do, there are always going to be security issues. The responsibility has to be on every level and not just security personnel. Everyone should be flagging odd behavior,’’ said Mehmet Erdem, a hospitality professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Stephen Paddock, a 64-year old Nevada resident, sneaked 16 rifles and one handgun into his room at Mandalay Bay, where he checked in on Thursday.

Paddock used them to open fire on a crowd attending a country music concert from his room on the 32nd floor around 10 p.m. Sunday. Police said 59 people are dead.

MGM Resorts International, which owns Mandalay Bay, declined comment Monday, pending an ongoing investigation, on how Paddock got such an arsenal into his room without being detected by security or housekeeping.

While casinos and hotels do not permit people to walk through their private property with concealed or unconcealed weapons, there is little to stop them from letting guests enter with guns hidden in bags.

Safe street

Sunday’s massacre tarnished the Strip’s reputation as one of the nation’s safest streets.

Casinos along famed Las Vegas Boulevard have hundreds of surveillance cameras in public places, including in front of the properties and in parking lots.

Casinos have their own private security staff roaming the floors. Metro has a noticeable presence along the Strip as well.

Paddock traveled by car to Las Vegas from Mesquite, a town about a 90-minute ride away, presumably with the guns in his car.

“At all of our properties, we have pretty robust security. In light of what happened, we will review those measures and heighten them as necessary,’’ said David Strow, a spokesman for Boyd Gaming Corp., which has casinos in downtown Las Vegas.

Casinos will likely add more security personnel in the aftermath of the massacre, said Michael McCall, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality.

“Security being present to the extent that they are noticeable would be a disincentive’’ to criminals, said McCall.

McCall agreed with Erdem that metal detectors would not be a viable solution as it would hurt the guest experience. People will not want to stand in long lines like they do at airport security posts.

“Vacationers want to relax, they don’t want to be reminded of the dangers in the world,’’ said McCall.

Hotels will need to beef up their training programs so that all employees, and not just security personnel, can learn to detect suspicious behavior, said Erdem. Strip casinos could consult with airlines on how they spot suspicious behavior, he said.

Odd behavior in isolation can often be explained away, but if several employees notice unusual behavior and report it to a central location, hotels can respond before tragedy happens, Erdem said.

McCall said the hotel industry will likely learn “a lot of lessons” from this case and the study of the surveillance tapes.

“This is kind of a wake-up call to the hotel industry. It will change people’s thoughts about hotel security,’’ he said.

Contact Todd Prince at tprince@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0386. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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