Tuesday, June 4, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Map of The Strip
Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas
Security on the Strip just got more high-tech.
Thirty-seven surveillance cameras now sit atop traffic poles along a 4-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, part of an effort to boost safety in the tourist-heavy corridor.
The cameras — paid for by a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — have been installed on poles from Russell Road to Sahara Avenue, said Lt. Jim Seebock of the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center. They will begin recording footage later this month.
“These cameras are overt,” Seebock said. “They are going to be where people can see them. They are only capturing footage of people in the public domain.”
A Las Vegas Boulevard working group, made up of representatives from the casino industry, county management and Metro Police, recommended adding cameras along the Strip about a year ago. The federal government approved funding in the fall.
The concept isn’t new to Las Vegas. Several years ago, similar cameras were installed near 15th and Fremont streets as a way to curb crime in that area. Other cities with high visitor volumes, such as Chicago, Virginia Beach and Los Angeles, also have surveillance cameras, Seebock said.
Authorities consider the cameras both a crime-prevention and investigative tool, giving law-enforcers the opportunity to spot suspicious activity and go back in time to view footage if an emergency event occurs.
The surveillance cameras along Las Vegas Boulevard will pan, tilt, zoom and record 14 days of footage, Seebock said. After each two-week period, the cameras will do an “automatic purge” and start recording anew.
Their debut comes in the wake of surveillance footage from Boston businesses proving crucial in identifying the suspects in the April 15 marathon bombing that killed three people and injured 260.
“That was just a great example of how important having video evidence can be,” Seebock said. “That really broke the case wide open.”
The primary goal, however, is to ward off possible attacks in Las Vegas by monitoring suspicious activity: perhaps a person abandoning a vehicle or package, someone photographing infrastructure or anything else that seems out of the ordinary.
And in Las Vegas, where the lifeblood of the economy depends on its neon-lit corridor, that’s always a concern. The multiagency Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center receives several reports of suspicious activity throughout Las Vegas every day, Seebock said.
Authorities can view the surveillance cameras’ footage from emergency operation centers, a Metro Police substation on the Strip and the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, Seebock said.
Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his fears were somewhat allayed by the cameras’ automatic 14-day purge. Keeping the footage on file indefinitely, he said, would have raised questions.
Otherwise, Story said cameras keeping track of peoples’ comings and goings seem to be acceptable these days.
“The public’s gotten used to it,” Story said. “It seems like we’re being surveilled at every turn.”
In time, officials hope to have around-the-clock staffing to monitor the footage, possibly with support from officers not able to be in the field due to injury or pregnancy, Seebock said.
“It’s a force multiplier,” he said. “One person utilizing these cameras can help prevent a whole lot or identify a whole lot that’s going on in a large span from one position.”