November 11, 2008 - 10:45 am
Residents, tourists and business owners should see more police officers cruising the streets in southeast Las Vegas than ever before.
On the brink of another 25,000 hotel rooms slated to open in the valley over the next two years, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Metropolitan Police Department opened a new area command center on the authority’s campus at 3150 Paradise Road early this month.
At 6 a.m. on Nov. 1, employees at the new Convention Center Area Command switched on the radio for the first time to officially launch the department’s eighth area command center.
Just two weeks earlier, construction started on a new fire station, also located on the Convention Center campus. The two projects are part of the authority’s $890 million overall facelift.
When authority President and Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter set out four years ago to enhance the Convention Center, he turned to its visitors to ask what they wanted.
“One concern that came up from our clients was safety,” authority spokesman Jeremy Handel said. “We’re not in the safest area of town.”
The authority agreed to pay for the $17 million police substation and lease it to the police department.
Metropolitan Police Capt. Charles L. Hank III said the neighborhood needed a substation, but police department did not have the land to build it on.
Hank said that before the new station, it was not uncommon to drive from Sahara Avenue south to Russell Road without spotting a police officer.
The Strip and nearby neighborhoods previously were patrolled by the South Central Area Command near the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard South and Russell Road.
“We’ve had limited resources,” Hank said. “If there’s a cop around, there’s usually no crime. We realize that, and we want to improve the police presence and the response times.”
The area command will house 131 employees, including four lieutenants, nine sergeants and 90 police officers. The officers will patrol and service the area south of Sahara Avenue, west of Swenson Street, north of Russell and east of Interstate 15.
Mary Nicks, who lives and works near the substation, said she’s thrilled to hear promises of more police. She said groups of homeless people hang out near her office on Sahara Avenue.
“It’s scary when we leave at night,” Nicks said. “Our customers get a little nervous walking in. Maybe more police will help.”
The 26,000-square-foot substation includes several conference rooms, offices, locker rooms and an attached three-story garage stocked with bicycles, motorcycles and squad cars. The department’s officers will invite security guards from Strip hotel-casinos to the station to train them in crime prevention. Hank said the department has wanted to build a better partnership with hotel-casino security, but, until the new station, did not have the space to hold large meetings.
New fire station No. 33, located near the corner of Swenson and Desert Inn Road, is set to open in late summer 2009. Clark County paid for the new $5.3 million station and will lease the property from the authority for $1 a year.
The new station will help alleviate the demand of station No. 18, located at 575 E. Flamingo Road, which averages 24,000 runs a year to be the busiest station in the nation, according to Clark County Fire Chief Steve Smith.
“This partnership allows us to improve our emergency response to the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip,” he said. “This facility is greatly needed, especially with the tremendous growth we’ve seen in the resort corridor.”
A fire station just a few hundred yards away from the Convention Center will ease the minds of the center’s visitors, Handel said. The 3.2 million-square-foot convention center holds events that display almost everything from massive construction equipment to hefty kitchen appliances.
“The variety of conventions that we have brings up the need for safety,” he said. “If something were to occur, they’re right here.”
Contact Southeast and Southwest View reporter Danielle Nadler at email@example.com or 224-5524.