When it comes to murder, Clark County is off to another “banner” year.
In the first 10 days, we had five murders. Another man was shot in the chest and survived.
If that pace keeps up, 2017 might just top 2016’s record of 166 murders.
But as Metro Police hires more officers with help from a new sales tax enacted in November, how do more cops help prevent murder?
Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told KNPR's State of Nevada that over the next two years the department is working to recruit and train 600 new officers.
"The more cops we have out there and the more they’re focused on the right people in the right places that are out committing those crimes, as well as having the ability to more rapidly respond to that 911 information and the suspicious activity reports that come into us, certainly has an impact on our ability to not only prevent that crime, which is the hope,” McMahill said.
He said starting this month Metro will have classes of 50 officers going through training each month to get more officers on the street as soon as possible.
The aim is to have two officers per 1,000 residents in Metro's jurisdiction, he added.
The undersheriff also said the department is trying to address specific reasons for homicides like domestic violence, which accounted for 31 of the 166 murders last year. He said programs in family court hope to address situations before they get to the point of murder.
He also said the department would like to focus on gangs: of the 166 murders, 61 were related to gangs and 57 involved a handgun.
“We have to have some ability to focus on those individuals that shouldn’t have the handgun that are out committing those crimes,” McMahill said, “How do we better target those individuals that have gang affiliations and the activities that they’re under taking."
Part of the problem are gang members from California coming to the Las Vegas valley. McMahill said a "significant" number of murders last year were committed by California residents.
While all of those issues are part of the larger problem, McMahill said the department also has to deal with the failing of other social services.
“The customers of the police department and the criminal justice system are the results of the failures of so many other social systems,” he said.
And he believes the solution to those problems comes from the whole community, not just from his department.
“The reality of this crime problem in any major community in America is that it is not just a police problem - it is a community problem," he added.
McMahill stressed that community policing and more cops on the street will help impact that violent crime rate. The department is also working with a group organized by the governor's office to find ways to address mental health problems.
The undersheriff said he and his officers take the homicide rate very seriously, but there is no silver bullet to end violent crime in Southern Nevada.
“I’ve lost a lot of sleep about that over the last several years as your undersheriff and trying to figure this out," he said, "I wish I could give you an answer to it, but I can’t”
While no one can say exactly why we've seen a spike in violent crime and there is no one answer to it. McMahill did make a promise.
“We will make an impact on violent crime this year," he said, "You can rest assured of that”
Kevin McMahill, undersheriff, Las Vegas Metrpolitan Police Department
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