Examining Police Calls in Las Vegas
Like many large cities, Las Vegas has a healthy local population, but the city also draws millions of tourists each year (over 42 million tourists in 2017, in fact) to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Las Vegas Strip. It may not come as a huge shock, then, to learn that there are scads of emergency calls placed throughout the city and its surrounding areas.
We went through Las Vegas emergency call data from July 2017 to July 2018 and pegged each call locale to a map of the city to see if there were any trends we could identify. A few popped up immediately, and while some of the results may not surprise everyone, some of the information we gleaned certainly might.
Let's take a peek at Las Vegas and where the hot spots for emergency calls were found over the course of a year.
Vegas Hot Spots for 911 Calls
The most famous street in Las Vegas is known as the Las Vegas Strip, but if you look at a map, you'll notice that its actual name is Las Vegas Boulevard. No matter what it's called, the Strip, which runs almost parallel to Interstate 15, is a huge tourist destination. It is lined with upscale hotels, casinos, restaurants, performance venues, and shopping opportunities and boasts a very high occupancy rate (90% in 2017), which means that business is booming.
However, all that glitz and glam doesn't mean that the area is not without its problems. In fact, when we looked at the number of emergency calls from July 15, 2017, to July 15, 2018, they tended to increase closer to the Strip.
Note the gold outline near the middle of the busiest emergency call area - this is a census tract that includes most of the Las Vegas Strip. This area, by far, made the most emergency calls in the Las Vegas area - 4,680 during the time frame we studied.
Like many large cities - as mentioned above, Las Vegas has a solid population and brings in scads of visitors - the city of Las Vegas does have a high crime rate, even when compared to the rest of the state. Property crime and violent crime are both higher in Las Vegas than in Nevada as a whole, and crime is more concentrated within the city itself than in the rest of the state. In fact, Las Vegas accounts for 179 crimes per square mile, as opposed to 23 per square mile in all of Nevada.
However, it's not all bad news. When compared to other cities with a similar population, the crime rate in Las Vegas is lower than the average across the board.
Bright Lights, Big City, Emergencies
When we created an animated map of emergency calls in Las Vegas, it's apparent that the Strip is a definite hot spot - not in one single location, but rather up and down the boulevard. What's the significance of this location?
It turns out, alcohol can be a major factor in crime. In fact, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence notes that it's an aspect in 40% of all violent crimes. And Las Vegas, including the Strip, makes it very easy to drink, as the city has very flexible alcohol laws. Open container laws don't exist in Las Vegas, which means you can walk around with an open container of alcohol and consume it publicly (as long as you're not too close to certain locations, such as churches, schools, or hospitals). So if you add easy access to alcohol to a locale that's probably loaded with people, it's a potential powder keg for crime to occur.
Gotta Love Those Mondays
You might think that the weekends are chock full of emergency calls, but in Las Vegas, this was not necessarily true - it's actually Monday that showed the most 911 summons, just slightly edging out Tuesday. The day with the fewest calls was Sunday, and Saturday accounted for the second-fewest. Perhaps this is due to the Vegas atmosphere and how it can induce a round-the-clock party or possibly the fact that the city is inundated with millions of visitors each year who are on vacation or looking for a good time, no matter what day of the week. The types of emergency calls that were more commonly placed on Mondays included burglary, stolen motor vehicles, and malicious destruction of property.
"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" is a well-known phrase, especially after the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority began an ad campaign with a similar slogan ("What happens here, stays here") over 15 years ago, and it's solidified into one of Vegas' best branding efforts to date. While this doesn't mean that people are encouraged to go to LV and commit crimes, visitors might have lower inhibitions and are, therefore, more susceptible to crimes like burglary or assault. Visitors may have an increased sense to let their hair down and do things they wouldn't normally do.
While it can seem overwhelming to look at Las Vegas over an entire year and think that it's a crime-filled, alcohol-soaked den full of awful people, the crime stats don't really paint that same picture. These statistics show that most visitors to Las Vegas can enjoy the sights, tastes, sounds, and experiences of a city bustling with nightlife without the need to punch in 9-1-1 even once - or even the need to think about it. Vegas is bold, beautiful, exciting, and full of adventures, and while emergency calls do tend to cluster in certain areas, it's likely because there are simply more people gathering there.
For the heat map of Las Vegas and the greater Las Vegas area, the heat map color was on a graduated scale with a quantile distribution. There were six buckets that a tract could fall under. Each bucket represents an equal distribution of where 16.7% of the tracts totaled. The shapefile for Las Vegas came from the census place section here.
"Bright Lights, Big City, Emergencies" was created using Carto's animated aggregation tool. Each blip has a duration of 20, 256 steps, four tails, and a resolution of four
Because Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Strip, and the greater Las Vegas area are tourist destinations, the population represented who live in these areas may fluctuate.
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