In response to the Oct. 1 mass shooting at an outdoor concert on the Las Vegas Strip, Nevada lawmakers have approved record funding to make sure revelers are safe on New Year’s Eve. A total of $357,000 will be spent on 358 National Guard troops who will be stationed on the Strip, downtown on Fremont Street, and at McCarran International Airport.
That figure is more than double the 160 who were deployed last year and the expenditure is nearly three times that of the $120,000 that was allocated in 2016, a sign of how seriously officials are taking the potential for another threat.
In addition to the National Guard, every officer with the Metropolitan Police force will be on duty the last night of the year. The city attracts nearly 350,000 people who come to celebrate. It is the second-largest crowd in the US on that night, surpassed only by New York’s Times Square, hosts nearly a million to watch the ball drop at midnight.
“The resources of Metro, and the resources of our law enforcement—all of the intelligence that we have, and Homeland Security assets, are going to be used to make sure people are safe,” Nevada’s Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison said, noting that no expense would be spared to make sure the night ends with no incidents.
Rating Ramp Up
Clark County Deputy Fire Chief John Steinbeck wrote to the legislature requesting the funds and said it was a necessity.
“Special events in Southern Nevada are our greatest security concern and require the highest level of emergency resources we can provide,” he wrote.
Steinbeck has categorized New Year’s Eve 2017 as a Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR) 1, the highest level an event can be designated. Last year, the event was a SEAR 2.
There will also be funds available for a mobile medical staff, a quick reaction force to respond to potential terrorist situations, and first-responders, including firemen and paramedics.
Every year, traffic access is shut on Las Vegas Blvd. in the late afternoon on Dec. 31, and reopened about an hour after the conclusion of the nearly 10-minute fireworks show at midnight.
Police will have a heavy presence in the middle of the street. While 700 steel bollards were recently installed that can stop a truck at 55 mph from hopping a curb, with the traffic shutdown, their capabilities likely won’t be tested on New Year’s Eve.
Increased Security Now the Norm
Even before the tragedy two months ago, public officials reassessed how to better protect crowds that gathered outdoors en masse. In August, the city installed yellow k-rail barriers at downtown’s Fremont Street Experience. Also known as Jersey walls, the modular concrete blockades are commonly seen in construction zones and protect pedestrians by preventing vehicles from driving on the sidewalks.
Security procedures were given a test run at the Rock ’N’ Roll Marathon on Nov. 11. It was the first major outdoor event since the mass shooting at the Route 91 concert where a lone gunman killed 58 people and injured more than 500 from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Snipers were positioned along the 26.2-mile route and a helicopter flew overhead to monitor the thousands who participated. No unwanted events occurred, a reality that Las Vegas Metro hopes to be able to share again on the morning of January 1, 2018.