Fremont Street Experience Rolls Out A.I.-Powered Security System

A few months ago, Fremont Street Experience (wrongly) took a P.R. hit for a couple of shootings by asshats.

Everyone downtown freaked out as some visitors questioned whether the popular tourist destination is safe (it is).

Following the incidents in June and July of 2022, Fremont Street Experience implemented some superficial, but very visible, security measures to try and increase public confidence (third party security guards, checkpoints, metal detectors, a curfew and I.D. checks), but the steps were largely “security theater,” as the kids say.

Like removing belts at the airport, recent security measures at FSE have mostly been annoying without actually doing much.

Hate waiting in a line to pass through a metal detector? Walk a block north or south and gain access to Fremont Street through a casino. Is a casino checking I.D.s? That casino (if it’s not Circa) probably isn’t checking at all its doors. It’s not rocket science.

Let’s just say the recent “enhanced” security measures at FSE have more gaping holes in them than an All Net Resort news conference.

This isn’t really the fault of FSE, by the way. Some casinos just decide not to participate. (We’ve never seen enhanced security measures at Boyd’s Fremont casino, Binion’s or Four Queens.) There are dozens of ways to access Fremont Street, it’s a public street. Additional security personnel and equipment is expensive, and arguably not all that effective at stopping random acts of WTF.

Now, FSE has upped its security game with the deployment of what’s described as an “A.I.-Powered Smart Safety Platform (‘SSP’) and Smart Sentry Units.” The system comes from a company called Remark Holdings.

Oh, and “A.I.” stands for “artificial intelligence,” in case you went to public school. Like we did. Which explains a lot. Moving on.

Security checkpoints are a buzzkill for visitors anxious to drink, gamble and hook up with strangers.

There’s no way to make this sexy, so we’ll just share what’s in the official news release: “SSP enables organizations to make real-time data-driven decisions and allows users to uncover data insights from the autonomous detection of security incidents and breaches, around the clock.”

That’s actually just the foreplay. It’s time to put on some Barry White and get down to the security smushing, if it’s still called that.

These are some of the features of the new system FSE is getting down with, or possibly on:

googie Intelligent pre- and post-forensic investigation that provides meta-data searches by utilizing physical and object recognition attributes to speed up the investigation process.
googie Intrusion/loitering/object/vehicle/trespassing detection.
googie Live real-time large-capacity people counting and crowd analysis.
googie Preventative behavioral analysis such as loitering, dropping of unattended bags, vandalism, graffiti, fights.
googie Suspicious fire, object, and smoke detection.
googie Visual dashboard with actionable insights and reports for daily monitoring and customer flow analysis.

You know, stuff Metro should be doing, but they’re often too busy hanging out under the A/C or heat vents at Four Queens to watch an entire street full of people.

But seriously, there are a lot of people on Fremont Street.

Most people are there to have a great time, drinking and gambling, and never once pop a cap.

There will always be boneheads in the mix, however. We should know. We worked at Fremont Street Experience for six years and were personally witness to countless acts of boneheadery. That’s not the technical term we used at FSE, but you get the idea.

The new system claims to assist with some ongoing frustrations FSE security and law enforcement face. Loitering is a huge issue, as is vagrancy and panhandling.

Another ongoing challenge for FSE has been people-counting. Visitation and crowd counts are all educated guesses, including the number used in the news release about the new A.I. security system.

The news release uses the figure “26 million annual visitors.” Which is complete conjecture, largely based upon surveys by the Las Vegas Convention Visitors Authority (LVCVA) asking people to volunteer whether they’ve visited downtown during their visit. The surveys are reliably unreliable.

Then again, FSE can’t say “it’s a metric ass-ton of people,” so we’ll just go with 26 millionish visitors.

Every venue struggles with the security-freedom balance. It’s even more complicated because Fremont Street is a public street.

Also on the list of security system features: Intrusion and vehicle detection. This is actually really important, as everyone’s seen tragedies involving nutjobs and/or idiots driving into crowds. Sometimes the Venn diagram of nutjobs and idiots overlaps, of course.

FSE is unique in that it’s a pedestrian mall with many millions of people walking along the street, yet there are several intersections where they have to use crosswalks to navigate the entertainment district. Oh, and people are drunk. What could possibly go wrong?

There have been a ton of bollards installed in and around Fremont Street to avoid it being a potential “soft target.”

“Bollard” comes from the word “bole,” meaning tree trunk. Further proof our photo captions are making you more interesting at parties.

It’s all a little awkward, because people want to hear about security measures, but talking about security too much can undermine public confidence in security.

That, however, is the reality of the world we live in, so let’s talk about it like adults.

The fact is random acts of stupidity by individuals can’t be prevented without extreme measures no American would tolerate.

We like our security strong, but invisible, like the short-range radar discreetly built into doorways and walls at some Las Vegas casinos to detect weapons.

It sounds like the new security system at FSE won’t be too intrusive, and will give FSE security, casino security and law enforcement additional tools to bolster public confidence. Not that it should need bolstering. Given the number of people who visit FSE, it’s extraordinarily safe.

Now, presumably, it will be even safer.

Beyond increased security, the system will also be helpful to casino operators in other ways. Did you think we were going to skim right by “customer flow analysis.” That’s not security, that’s commerce.

Monitoring loitering, vandalism and graffiti are security-related, but also fall firmly into the category of, “Casinos have been pissed off about this for ages and need a way to deal with this crap.”

Crowd counting is huge because FSE’s success is measured by how many people it draws downtown. It’s the marketing arm of all the casinos that are members of FSE. Casinos can infer FSE’s success by gambling and other revenue, but there’s never been a good way to count bodies on the street. This is that.

Until recently, crowd estimates at FSE were done with a highly scientific method called “guesstimating.”

It sounds like the system is already in place, as it was used during two recent concerts.

Our friend Mark Reddon, Director of Security for the Fremont Street Experience, added this to the official news release about the new system: “We are delighted with the performance of Remark’s A.I.-powered Smart Safety Platform, having seen its benefits during two recent well attended free concerts by the Stone Temple Pilots and Flo Rida.”

Mark Reddon doesn’t really talk like that, he’s a normal person, but news releases gonna news release.

We’ll share the rest of Mark’s quote, because he uses the word “efficacy,” which is definitely the most Mark word, ever.

Reddon stated, “Remark delivered as promised, giving us the analytical insights into crowd count and traffic patterns, allowing us to properly manage our security presence and ensure the safety of the high turnout audience. Having seen its efficacy, we are looking to further deploy Remark’s SSP among our other cameras, while supplementing security coverage for live events with Remark’s Smart Sentry Units. As we continue with the future 3rd Street expansion of the Fremont Street Experience, we are excited about growing our long-term partnership with Remark and look forward to utilizing its full suite of AI products.”

We couldn’t love Mark Reddon more, and not just because we would like to avoid being pepper sprayed the next time we visit Fremont Street Experience.

The “3rd Street expansion” he’s talking about is the walkway refresh coming to the space between Fremont casino and the Fabulous Las Vegas Jewelry and Gifts shop (looking toward Downtown Grand from The D).

The fancy new walkway from Fremont to Pizza Rock is going to, well, rock. Bonus: New sushi place on the left (the space is owned by Downtown Grand), new Fremont casino expansion on the right.

Like any security technology, there are potential pitfalls and abuses. “Preventative behavioral analysis” sounds like it could easily slip into the “profiling” realm, so we assume the ACLU will be watching closely. The ACLU watches everything close on Fremont Street. It’s why these dopes with their pickle tubs and litterers making flowers from palm fronds are still there. Don’t get us started.

We asked Remark about facial recognition, as that’s a touchy subject in the security-privacy debate. Remark says facial recognition isn’t part of this system.

Overall, props to FSE for expanding the toolkit for its security department. These are some of the most under-appreciated and under-compensated folks (FSE has always had to deal with poaching, as security officers will often finish training and jump to a casino paying a dollar or two more per hour) you’ll find in the security realm in Las Vegas. They don’t have the authority of real cops, yet are sometimes asked to perform similar duties.

Fremont Street is undeniably crazy, and the FSE security team has seen things most of us can only imagine. They are the heroes of Fremont Street (ditto the amazing staff in the maintenance department), and a lot of what they do to keep people safe is never noticed or appreciated by visitors.

Fremont Street Experience remains our go-to for a night out in Las Vegas, and we’ve never felt unsafe. FSE throws the best party in the world, pretty much every night of the week. Suck it, New Orleans.

Now, with A.I. watching our back, Fremont Street Experience is safer than ever. If only the new system had “A.I.-powered liver durability analysis” technology. Let’s go, science!

No matter what technology, personnel or safety precautions are in place, the best way to keep safe in Las Vegas is to use common sense. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid dipshittery and, if at all possible, visit when the rodeo’s in town.