Las Vegas Sun

May 25, 2019

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Metro takes communal approach to uptick in violent crime

A spike in crime during what Metro’s Deputy Chief Tom Roberts is calling, “a very violent year in our community,” has led Metro Police to take part in the Rebuilding Every City Around Peace initiative, the department announced in a news conference Wednesday morning.

The department was chosen to participate in the initiative, also known as RECAP, by its president, Rev. Jeffrey Brown, a Boston-based Baptist minister who successfully implemented the program in his own city in an effort to curb gang violence.

Set to take place June 8-15 in honor of the one-year anniversary of the death of officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, the initiative aims to build a partnership between law enforcement and valley residents through activities such as peace walks and discussions in churches of various denominations.

“We as a community, the members and citizens of Las Vegas, can take a stand in taking our community back,” Lt. Sasha Larkin of Metro’s Gangs and Narcotics Bureau said.

So far this year, police say there have been 252 shootings in the valley, compared to 194 shootings around this time in 2014. Twenty-nine of them have been fatal.

May is proving to be especially violent, as 13 people were killed in the first 16 days of the month, Roberts said.

There have been 45 homicides so far, compared to 48 at this time last year.

Of these 45, police say 26 percent, or 12, were domestic-violence related, with nine involving intimate partners —- those who are dating or married as opposed to those who are related.

Metro has noticed a disturbing trend in which the family and friends of domestic violence victims are often aware of major problems brewing in relationships.

Due to the fact that not all relationship issues escalate into situations where police can make arrests, Metro Capt. Chris Tomaino of the Robbery and Homicide Bureau says it’s important for friends and family members to prevent situations from “exploding” by reaching out to advocate groups or counseling services.

Seven of the 45 homicides were drug-related, police said (five related to marijuana, specifically), which matches the total number of drug-related homicides for all of 2014.

Although Tomaino says the department works to “enforce the laws the Legislature passes,” officers anticipate an increase in robberies once the legal sale of medical marijuana takes off.

“There’s no banking remedy to deal with the high cash load that goes through these businesses, and they become targets of opportunity,” he said.

Police have found that a large number of violent crimes and property crimes are related to drugs.

It is difficult to get an exact percentage for this correlation as a majority of victims involved in these types of crimes are usually not willing to speak to police, according to Larkin.

“If we have a street-level robbery in which someone goes to buy marijuana or methamphetamine on the street, and the person they are going to buy it from steals their money, a very, very small percentage of people will tell the police when they show up, ‘Oh yeah, I was here to buy some marijuana, and they stole my money.’” she said.

Police say high crime areas are usually concentrated in the urban regions of the central valley, but homicides are widespread.

The rise in crime can be attributed to many factors.

“Our economy is getting better, more people are moving here, there’s more resources in the community, and a lot of times robberies and crime are a battle for resources, so when you have people that don’t have it, they try to take it from others,” Roberts said.

The department witnessed a drop in the valley’s crime rate during the recession, police said.

By putting more cops on the street, including 68 who graduated from Metro’s police academy Wednesday afternoon, and implementing the RECAP initiative, police hope to bring safety back to the streets of Las Vegas for the rest of the year.

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