Wednesday, June 26, 2002 | 11:05 a.m.
Passers-by wondered aloud whether Metro Police had blocked Fremont Street for the filming of a movie, but it was not a blockbuster that shut down several blocks of downtown known for its prostitutes and drug dealers.
On Tuesday morning, six blocks east of Las Vegas Boulevard were flooded by city officials, Metro officers, City Marshals and business owners marking the beginning of a cooperative effort to revive the dying area.
For city officials, that meant a ceremonial cleaning of the area with giant street sweepers, driven by Mayor Oscar Goodman and Councilmen Lawrence Weekly and Michael McDonald. Metro officials, though, have a long-term challenge ahead of them as they work to rid the streets of criminals.
"Today, lots of emphasis is going to take place in an area that some people have written off," Weekly said. "If you have been contributing to the problem, it's a new day."
The effort is bring promoted by the city's desire to turn east Fremont Street -- bound by Las Vegas Boulevard, Ogden Avenue, Eighth Street and Carson Avenue -- into an entertainment district with taverns, night clubs and bars. It's a far cry from the current look, with drugstores, tattoo shops, and Vegas souvenirs.
Capt. Tom Lozich, who heads the downtown arena command, said Metro will be stepping up its presence in the area with the deployment of a full-time "beat office" where officers will make nightly foot patrols between Las Vegas Boulevard and Ninth Street, Ogden and Carson avenues.
"The goal is to reduce crime and the fear of crime," he said. "We all know arresting and prosecuting these criminals working in this area is only half of the equation." He said the physical environment must also be improved.
Councilman Michael McDonald, a former Metro officer, said if people don't feel safe downtown, the area will never become a community.
"Take your drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes and lead them out of here," McDonald said. "And downtown will be what it once was."